Perhaps the most revered spot at school is the campus quarry. Throughout the year, water levels in the quarry have been fluctuating leaving many community members concerned and confused about the status of its greenery and quarry-related activities.
Upper school biology teacher John Gallo believes that the water levels fluctuating are a product of evaporation in the summer months and a deluge of rain in the Spring. Permaculture club believes that the extreme falling water levels can be attributed to the absorption of the water from the crack in the quarry limestone. Regardless of the reasons, the dramatic fluctuations can potentially affect campus greenery and wildlife.
“My take is that the water level depends mostly on the rainfall amount and the quarry surface evaporation rate,” Gallo said. “You may realize that supposedly there is a limestone base under the mud bottom of the quarry. Since the surface soil moves a lot in this part of Texas, I guess there may be cracks in the limestone due to land surface movement. If that’s true, then I guess some water could also seep down through the bottom. It’s impossible to know this for sure though.”
The school quarry has a long history as the school and the community has been built up around this spot on campus.And yes, the water levels fluctuating arguably could be attributed to shifting limestone that was originally used to make concrete for the city of Dallas.
“The quarry has a very long history,” outdoor educator Davis Felder said. “There is a limestone deposit in the quarry. People saw this as a business opportunity to dig the rock out and use it as concrete. They then used the concrete to build roads in this neighborhood around the school and all around Dallas as well. They then dug so deep that eventually they hit the water table and struck water which made the quarry fill up.”
The limestone base for the quarry has been shifting, which some students believe has taken a large toll on the quarry water levels leading to an even bigger drop than ever before. Measures have been taken to prevent the dropping water from becoming a hazard to the quarry’s wildlife and quarry-related activities.
“The quarry has a leak in the bottom somewhere which is why the water level goes down after a while without rain, not all of it is from evaporation,” senior permaculture club member Christopher Hess said. “This water then just enters the state’s groundwater and aquifers. The school has talked about putting pellets in the quarry that would find the crack and seal it in for this to stop.”
Heavy rains during spring seasons result in flooding in the quarry that in the past has posed a threat to campus greenery. Permaculture club has taken new measures to prevent the flooding from having such a large impact on the campus’s plant health.
“The pipe from which water from the street exits from Montwood [Road] and lower school carpool line to the quarry tends to gush out water during a big storm, leading to erosion and no plants being able to grow there,” Hess said. “ITo slow down the water flow, we have built a ‘check dam’ that prevents the water and the pollutants entering the quarry too quickly.”
Permaculture club works to keep campus greenery thriving throughout the year. Despite challenges faced during especially rainy or dry months, the club has been able to set up a dam system and intentionally choose plants that would thrive in conditions of the fluctuating water levels.
“By putting in [our] dam, the water can enter the quarry more slowly, and we have already seen progress with plants growing downstream,” Hess said. “We also are currently sourcing rock to make more dams that could make growing native plants in the quarry more feasible. Obviously, the quarry water’s edge will always fluctuate as with any body of water, and we took that into account when choosing plants. We have four plants that are on the water’s edge that can tolerate fluctuating water levels and will hopefully grow and make a difference in the future.”
Despite measures being taken to mitigate the water level disparities from the crack in the limestone, the water in the quarry will continue to decrease as years progress. Over the past 40 years, the quarry levels have dropped a significant amount.
“The overall quarry water level is significantly lower than when I started at ESD 40 years ago,” Director of Outdoor Education Eddie Eason said. “The development of the Merrell campus, both buildings and athletic surfaces have greatly decreased the amount of ground absorption. Pumping water into the quarry will be a short visual relief, but the water will eventually drain into a low water table, think of a pool or bucket with a crack in it. The water will eventually escape.”