July has been a month of working on weather stations and wells in Natrona County. My mentor, Shane Evans, is responsible for maintaining 18 gauging stations across Natrona county. All of the stations have at least a rain gauge, a temperature gauge, and a transmitting antenna. Some of the more complicated ones measure stream height, and take water samples.
Rainfall is the main determinant of the maximum yield of rangelands, so rainfall data is especially important to ranchers. The stream height data helps Shane track the response of a stream to rainfall inundation. If a stream is well-vegetated and not too deeply incised, then its banks should be able to withstand high flow events without eroding.
Shane has been working on updating the computer systems in all of the gauging stations and replacing the pressure sensors. I’ve had the chance to come out with Shane and learn a bit about wiring. I’ve also had the chance to do some demolition work on old weather stations!
Shane also oversees all of the livestock wells on public land in Natrona county, a number close to 300! The wells are extremely important in the arid high desert: they allow ranchers to move their cattle through areas with no surface water. Often in the summer, Shane gets concerned calls from ranchers explaining that a well is not producing very much water. Would you please come out and take a look? Of course! Off we go in Shane’s F-350. We bring electrical tools to check on the solar power, and the computer which controls the pump. We also look around the area to make sure that water is not seeping out of a broken pipe before it reaches the troughs.
I love the variety of work we get to do in the hydrology division. Water is vital to all life, but its importance is especially prevalent in the arid west, a fact which keeps the hydrologists very busy!