Create Your Own Aquifer in a Cup

Create Your Own Aquifer in a Cup

Posted on Friday, April 17, 2020, by Hubert Heck

Create your own miniature aquifer in a cup. The limestone present in the Ozarks has cracks and voids that allow water to permeate and pass through it. Water flowing through the limestone passages of Fantastic Caverns, began as rainwater.

Understanding our water resources

Water resources include rainfall, snowmelt, streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs and groundwater. Groundwater is the water found beneath the Earth’s surface usually supplied by rainfall and snowmelt percolating into the soil within a watershed. Water follows the path of least resistance; as it moves underground, it saturates layers of sediment far beneath the surface. When enough water accumulates underground to provide a usable amount, it is called an aquifer. The upper surface of the water saturated layers of the Earth is called the water table. As water flows both above and below the surface, there are regional basins where water collects. These regional water collection basins are called watersheds.

The Ozarks region has a special kind of landscape known as karst

Karst is made when water seeps into the ground and dissolves soluble rock such as limestone and dolomite. To imagine what karst looks like below ground, picture a giant piece of Swiss cheese. Karst landscapes have many sinkholes, springs, caves, and losing streams (a losing stream is a stream or river that has water flowing into the ground through an opening in the riverbed). These types of features can be a direct path for groundwater contamination because they connect with underground water resources.

Understanding the potential of groundwater contamination in our karst landscape

Creating your own miniature aquifer

Supplies

  • 2 small jars or cups
  • Coffee filters
  • Rubber Bands or string
  • Rocks
  • Sand
  • Dirt
  • Water
  • Unsweetened drink mix, Food coloring or Turmeric
creating the layers of sediment for your aquifer in a cup

Instructions

  • Create your own aquifer in a cup
  • Place ¼”-½” diameter stones into the bottom of two cups or jars, about 1” high.
  • Put coffee filters into your cups and secure them in place with rubber bands.
  • Pour sand into the coffee filters about ¼”-½” deep.
  • Pour dirt on top of the sand layer a few inches deep.
  • Set one cup aside and on the surface of the dirt inside the other cup dump unsweetened drink mix, food coloring or turmeric. This will act as your pollutant.
  • Pour small amounts of warm water into each cup, enough to saturate the sand layer.
  • Observe the water that fills the voids between the rocks at the bottom.

*We’re planning to save the two aquifers we created in cups to use for another activity.

water recharging your aquifer

Discovering similarities and differences in your aquifers

We used turmeric to act as our pollutant, but using unsweetened drink mix or food coloring would create more disparity between the water in your aquifers. Observe your miniature aquifers as water is being introduced and after sediments have settled.

  • Did the water in one cup look clearer than the water in the other?
  • What are some similarities with the water?
  • What are some differences with the water?
water picking up pollutants and contaminating your aquifer

Protecting the quality of water is very important

As it rains and the rainwater moves through the watershed, it can pick up pollutants and deposit them into our water resources. There are two types of pollution.

  • Point source pollution
  • Non-point source pollution

Point source pollution comes from a single source, like chemicals being dumped into a stream. Non-point source pollution comes from multiple sources, like bacteria from waste, fluids from vehicles, sediment, pesticides and fertilizers. Non-point source pollution is the main type of pollution occurring in watersheds.

You can help protect our water resources and caves.

  • Pick up trash
  • Pick up after your pet
  • Conserve water
  • Plant native plants
  • Don’t flush things down your sink or toilet
  • Spread the word

 

 

looking at the water of your aquifer

Going with the flow at Fantastic Caverns

The limestone bedrock present in the Ozarks isn’t solid rock, but rock that is filled with cracks, cavities, and passages that allow water to move through it. The Ozarks are the perfect example of karst topography. Karst is a German word for the limestone region in Europe north of Trieste, Italy, that includes southwestern Slovenia. As rain falls in a karst region, water from the surface drains into the ground through cracks in the bedrock. As water percolates through the ground, it further dissolves the limestone along the cracks in the rock, eventually creating caves. This process is known as dissolution.

Fantastic Caverns was formed by the flow of an underground river and its passages were once filled with water. Today, the cave’s lower passageways fill with water when it rains. But when enough rain falls within the watershed, water will overflow the lower levels of the cave and spill into the upper, toured portion of Fantastic Caverns. The overflow occurs when the volume of water is too great to easily flow out to the surface. Water that flows through Fantastic Caverns began at the surface as rainwater. The watershed, or recharge area, is located to the south and west of the cave. When rain falls in this area, we can expect the flow of water through the lower levels of Fantastic Caverns to increase.

By using a special dye to trace the movement of water, it was discovered that the recharge area of Fantastic Caverns is about 15-square miles. Fantastic Caverns’ recharge area or watershed includes the Springfield-Branson National Airport; a variety of family farms; as well as residential, commercial and industrial developments. The wide-range of activities taking place above ground in the Ozarks directly affects the ecosystem below ground and our groundwater. Fantastic Caverns is home to three species of rare and threatened animals that depend on clean groundwater to survive. The watershed that supplies water to Fantastic Caverns, is also the water supply for over 1,000 neighborhood wells. Clean water is important to ALL life.

Latest Blog Posts

The latest about our Missouri cave, and other Fantastic Caverns news.

Build Your Own Terrarium and Monitor Water Quality
Stormwater run-off can easily pick up pollutants and cause erosion. Plants and trees help filter stormwater run-off and prevent erosion. The water flowing through the lower levels of Fantastic Caverns, began as stormwater on the surface. Create your own terrariums and monitor water quality.
Create Your Own Cave Confections
Create your own cave treats following these simple recipes. Caves provide habitats for unique species. Make your own edible cave habitats in the form of hollow meringue cookies or dessert rolls.
Cave and Karst Picture Finds
Find cave animals in these photos. The karst terrain of the Ozarks provides habitat for unique life. There is a very delicate ecosystem beneath our feet.
Create Your Own Crystals
You can easily grow your own crystals using sugar, salt or alum. Many crystals are minerals, and occur naturally. Minerals are the building blocks of rocks, like the limestone of Fantastic Caverns.
Cave and Karst Word Searches
Find words related to caves and cave life in these fun Cave and Karst Word Searches. Missouri is known as the Cave State, boasting more than 7,500 caves and counting.
Make Your Own Limestone Fossil Sugar Cookies
You can find fossilized remains of ancient creatures within the limestone of Fantastic Caverns. Create your own limestone-inspired fossils in the form of sugar cookies.
Create Your Own Cave in a Cup
Create your own cave. As water flows beneath the Earth's surface it dissolves and erodes the rock, forming the cavities that become caves.
Health and Safety are top priorities at Fantastic Caverns
The health and safety of our guests are top of mind as we continue to offer our memorable ride through cave experiences. We have increased the frequency of our everyday health and safety protocols and procedures, and we are taking extra precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy.
The underground fleet
Climb aboard the underground fleet at Fantastic Caverns and explore the world beneath your feet. Touring Fantastic Caverns by Jeep drawn trams helps preserve the cave. America's Ride Thru Cave may not be inhabited by humans but the cave system does have a thriving ecology of small critters that call it home.
America's ride thru cave
Missouri caves are well known as the most beautiful caves to see in North America and Fantastic Caverns ranks #1 by many. It's America's favorite ride-through cave attraction and uses their signature red Jeeps to drive you around through the cave.
Fantastic Caverns' Adventure Tour offers enrichment opportunities
Cub Scouts and participants of a new gifted outreach project got a sneak-peek of the upcoming art, science and history program coming to Fantastic Caverns called Adventure Tour. This was an opportunity for enrichment for the kids, and allowed the team at Fantastic Caverns to practice the program before its launch.
Fossilized limestone from Phenix Marble used in new construction
Phenix Marble Company mines block from the same Fossilized limestone deposit that also houses Fantastic Caverns. Stone from Phenix Marble Quarry to be used in grounds improvement projects at Fantastic Caverns.
Phone: 417-833-2010
Fax: (417) 833-2042
Fantastic Caverns
4872 N Farm Rd 125
Springfield, MO 65803
Trip Adviser certificate of excellence for Fantastic Caverns