U.S. Water News Online
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- Questions have been raised about
connections between the hot springs that gave this city its name and
other underground water sources, by the discovery outside the city of
water flowing from a private well at a temperature of 93 degrees.
The discovery also raises questions about possible effects on
highway construction in the area.
Hot Springs National Park occupies much of the downtown area, and
47 springs -- all of them downtown -- are protected by the National
Park Service. That water comes from the earth at a temperature of 143
But a homeowner living northeast of town told the park service he
had noticed recently the temperature of the water provided by his
well had risen well above the approximately 50-degree temperature at
which it had previously flowed.
Josie Fernandez, superintendent of the national park, said the
homeowner had obtained city water recently, and hadn't been using the
water from his well as much. When he did, she said, he noticed the
sharp difference and told the park service about a month ago.
"He happens to notice ... that the water temperature in the well
had increased to about 93 degrees," Fernandez said.
The homeowner speculated that recent highway construction had
altered underground water flows. Fernandez said that had raised
concerns with her agency.
"We definitely want to make sure that whatever is done is done in
a very prudent manner and causes no harm to any of the resources in
the state of Arkansas," she said.
Phillip Hays, senior hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey in
Arkansas, said the private well and the hot springs could be
connected, but "we don't have any data to show what the degree of
connection is, at all."
Fernandez says the question is if the hot water in the private
well comes from the same system that produces the city's namesake
thermal water, or if it is from a system previously unknown.
A connection between the well and the park's thermal springs could
have an impact on construction of the next leg of an expressway being
built around the city. The next leg would connect U.S. 70 to the east
of the city with Arkansas Highways 5 and 7 to the north and east of
The next section of the highway would eventually cross the
northeastern end of what is believed to be the recharge area of the
hot springs, Hays said. The recharge area is where the water
originates as rainfall on the surface before trickling down 4,000 to
7,500 feet into the earth, then returning to the surface at the hot
springs, heated by high temperatures it encountered in the earth's
"There might be a surface connection, but whether that connection
carries into the subsurface to form any really important single
system, we don't know," Hays said.
The state Highway and Transportation Department has already
completed an environmental study of the area proposed for the
roadway. But Dale Moss, assistant superintendent of Hot Springs
National Park, said the hot water is a new finding that will have to
be taken into account.
Fernandez said the park service, USGS and federal and state
highway agencies have already met to discuss what might be needed,
including possible tests of other wells for the presence of hot
"The USGS and the park service are going to have to determine the
source ... and then we'll follow their instructions," said Randy Ort,
spokesman for the state highway agency. "At this point, it's not
known if it's going to affect the next leg (of the bypass) or not."
The origins of Hot Springs National Park date to 1832, when it was
designated by the federal government as the Hot Springs Reservation,
in what was then still the territory of Arkansas. The federal
government allowed bathhouses to be built that became a popular spot
for people seeking relaxation and a health tonic using the warm
underground spring waters.
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