Geological Survey Program

Environmental Geology Section

Missouri Water Tracing Laboratory

Geologist injecting dye into stream Water traces have been performed throughout the state of Missouri for a number of years and for many different reasons. Some of the first water tracers used materials such as feathers and wheat chaff in an effort to determine the source of springs and cave streams. As dyes became available, they replaced the physical materials previously used. The early dyes were used until just a few years ago in visual water traces. Dye was placed in a losing or sinking section of a stream or a sinkhole and human tracers would watch the local springs or streams for signs of color. Recent advances in technology have incorporated the use of fluorescent dyes and scanning spectrofluorometers into the science of water tracing. Modern technology no longer requires that the spring or stream be discolored because detection limits of modern equipment is in the part per billion range and not visible to the naked eye. Groundwater investigations, cave exploration, well installation methods, engineering aspects related to leaking dams, and the determination of properly working septic tanks are a few of the situations where water traces are performed today.

For many years now the Geological Survey Program has housed a water tracing laboratory dedicated to conducting water traces and related research. In 1991 the Missouri Water Tracing Committee was formed. This committee is in charge of data collection and storage from the many Missouri water tracers. The Missouri Water Tracing Laboratory performs a number of traces each year, conducts research, and provides technical assistance to water tracers throughout the state. Registration of Missouri water traces is requested in an effort to collect and store data and to increase public awareness and knowledge about the values and need for water tracing. A number of forms have been made available to help water tracers organize their traces. This program is strictly voluntary and is free to the public.

The goal of the Missouri Water Tracing Committee is to provide technical assistance to the citizens of Missouri and organize the data collected by the large number of water tracers throughout the state. A database is housed at the Missouri Water Trace Laboratory. This database shows the locations of water traces performed within the state and summaries of each trace. Water tracers may use this data base to aid them in their own traces.

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