What lies beneath our feet is a complex and unique geography that usually only gets much attention when a sinkhole opens up and swallows eight Corvettes.
But a website, UNDER BG, seeks to provide awareness, information and resources about the region’s karst landscape.
The website was developed by the city of Bowling Green in partnership with Western Kentucky University.
Spreading the word about karst is important because the geology makes our area especially susceptible to water pollution. The karst landscape features underground rivers that can quickly feed contaminants into the local water supply, namely the Barren River, Bowling Green Environmental Manager Matt Powell said.
Karst “is tremendously unique,” he said.
Karst landscapes are formed when slightly acidic water carves away underground rock and produces features such as sinkholes, springs, caves, underground rivers and aquifers.
In other areas, if you put something on the ground, “it will take years and years to impact the groundwater. If you leave something on the ground here, it has an impact immediately,” Powell said.
The UNDER BG website is part of educational efforts local officials have undertaken to raise awareness about those unique conditions.
Leslie North is a WKU assistant professor and director of WKU’s Karst Field Studies Program as part of the Department of Geography and Geology Center for Human GeoEnvironmental Studies. She helped develop the website.
She said the site is part of the effort to educate people on “how everything is connected,” she said. Many people “don’t realize the impact” of living in a karst landscape, she said. For example, if something is spilled on the ground here, “it doesn’t go into a hole and disappear forever.”
On the website, visitors can monitor real-time water data from Lost River and a location called New Spring near Hobson Grove Park.
Plans are to add more live water data from similar areas, which would be especially useful during heavy rains, Powell said.
The site also features information about best practices, videos, illustrations of karst landscapes, links to resources, stormwater information and a pledge section where visitors can check off boxes of things they can do to protect the local water supply.
Powell said the city and WKU saw a need for such a site and developed it several years ago “to educate the public. It has been super helpful for us when people need information,” Powell said.
Such an event was in February 2014 when a sinkhole opened up at the National Corvette Museum and swallowed eight Corvettes. The event drew international media attention.
Plans are to keep adding to the site.
“We’re continuing to build it,” Powell said.
North said the site will be getting a complete overhaul, including more live data and more graphic elements.
The ultimate goal is the make people more aware of the world beneath their feet. To evaluate how well they are doing, the website also includes a survey that determines how much people know about the karst landscape.
“We’re hoping to show over months and years that people are more aware,” Powell said.
– The website is at under bgky.org.
– Follow city government reporter Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.