Geologist injecting dye into streamWater traces have been performed throughout Missouri for a number of years and for many different reasons. Tracers such as feathers and wheat chaff once were used in an effort to determine the water source of springs and cave streams. However, early water tracing techniques offered questionable results because of the ambiguity of detection methods, and they caused water supplies to be unusable for periods of time.

Groundwater investigations, cave exploration, well installation methods, engineering aspects related to leaking dams are a few instances when water traces are performed today. Technological advances incorporate the use of non-toxic fluorescent tracer dye and scanning spectrofluorometers into the science of water tracing and provide a safe and effective alternative to previous methods.

The Missouri Water Tracing Laboratory typically performs a number of traces each year, conducts research, and offers technical assistance to people conducting water traces throughout the state.

Each person conducting a water trace in Missouri must be registered and they must register each trace as required by Missouri State Statute 256.621 RSMo. This is an effort to collect and store data, prevent interference or overlapping of traces, and increase public awareness and knowledge about the importance of water tracing. To view groundwater traces continue to GeoSTRAT.

Dyeing to Follow the Water – Article in Missouri Resources magazine featuring Cecil Boswell, technical assistant with the department, who conducts water traces and provides technical assistance to industry and researchers who also conduct water traces.