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Use of environmental tracers for estimating rates of groundwater recharge to the gulf coast aquifer system in montgomery county texas
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Use of environmental tracers for estimating rates of groundwater recharge to the gulf coast aquifer system in montgomery county texas

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Presented by Timothy D. Oden at the Texas Water Conservation Association Conference in The Woodlands, Texas - March 2014

Presented by Timothy D. Oden at the Texas Water Conservation Association Conference in The Woodlands, Texas - March 2014


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  • 1. U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey Use of Environmental Tracers for Estimating Rates of Groundwater Recharge to the Gulf Coast Aquifer System in Montgomery County, Texas by Timothy D. Oden Prepared in Cooperation with Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Texas Water Conservation Association 70TH Annual Convention The Woodlands, Texas March 6, 2014
  • 2. Groundwater Recharge is Not Easily Measured  Recharge is not easily measured, often is estimated from other methods  Coupled recharge determinant methods would be helpful  age-dating (this study)  water-table fluctuation  chloride tracer method (saturated or unsaturated zone)  Streamflow-hydrograph separation
  • 3. What is Groundwater Recharge...  ...generally, the replenishment of water to a groundwater flow system  ...is an integral part of the hydrologic cycle that may have started as precipitation  ...precipitation that first infiltrates the exposed sediments at land surface, moves downward through the sediments until it reaches the water table, at which point it is part of the groundwater flow system of the Gulf Coast Aquifer
  • 4. Recharge and the Hydrologic Cycle
  • 5. What is NOT Groundwater Recharge...  ...equivalent to infiltration most water that infiltrates at land surface is returned to the atmosphere  ...equated with percolation percolation is the movement of water through the unsaturated zone  ...to be confused with aquifer yield this is the amount an aquifer can yield to pumping  ...the same as sustainable yield recharge can be less than sustainable yield
  • 6. Environmental Tracers in this Study  Modern (1940s to present)  Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)  Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)  Tritium (3H)  Helium/ Tritium (3He/3H)  Intermediate (100-1000 years)  Helium-4 (4He)?, maybe  Paleowaters (1,000 to 40,000 years)  Carbon-14 (14C)  Not dating the water, but a substance IN the water
  • 7. The Model – Piston Flow  Piston flow is the simplest transport assumption in groundwater age dating  Assumes no mixing or dispersion has altered the concentration after entering the system  Most likely, an oversimplification  effects of mixing and dispersion beyond the scope of this study
  • 8. Variables needed for Recharge Rate Estimation  The known or to be to determined:  H, aquifer thickness  z, depth in the aquifer  x, width of aquifer outcrop  xo, distance from well to beginning of flow path  e, porosity
  • 9. Idealized flow in simple aquifer type Modified from Cook and Herczeg, 2000 Piston flow – Lines of equal age Recharge x H z xo e of the aquifer
  • 10. Study Design  2008  37 wells, collected CFC, SF6, 3He/3H, 3H, 4He, and dissolved gas data  Chicot – 17 wells  Evangeline – 13 wells  Jasper – 7 wells  2011  24 wells, collected 14C, major ions, 4He and dissolved gas data (select wells)  Chicot – 7 wells  Evangeline - 8  Jasper – 9
  • 11. Chicot Recharge Estimates  Based on 14 wells –  Not all wells sampled in the Chicot Aquifer for this study were usable for recharge determination  Ranged from 0.2 to 7.2 inches per year  About 0.4 to 14.6 percent of normal annual precipitation* *normal annual precipitation from 1971-2000, COOP Weather Station 411956, Conroe, Texas
  • 12. Chicot Aquifer 1.9 2.4 ND 2.7 2.1 3.4 ND 7.2 2.3 3.8 ND1.0 0.4 0.9 0.2 3.7 4.8 Explanation Recharge Value (1.9), inches per year ND, not determined
  • 13. Evangeline Recharge Estimates  Based on 9 wells –  Not all wells sampled in the Evangeline Aquifer for this study were usable for recharge determination  Ranged from less than 0.1 to 2.8 inches per year  About 0.2 to 5.67 percent of normal annual precipitation
  • 14. Evangeline Aquifer 0.2ND 0.1 2.8 2.4 ND 0.1 1.51.0 ND ND 0.1 <.1 Explanation Recharge Value (0.1), inches per year ND, not determined
  • 15. Jasper Recharge Rates  Based on 10 wells –  Not all wells sampled in the Jasper Aquifer for this study were usable for recharge determination  Ranged from less than 0.1 to 0.5 inches per year  About 0.2 to 1.01 percent of normal annual precipitation
  • 16. Jasper Aquifer ND 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.5 <.1 <.1 0.1 <.1 0.1 Explanation Recharge Value (0.1), inches per year ND, not determined
  • 17. Uncertainty – Unconfined System modifying each variable, the rate changes – blue and black circles, values from the report apparent gw age gw age, +10 percent gw age, -10 percent 20 percent, porosity 25 percent, porosity 30 percent, porosity aquifer thickness, +50 ft aquifer thickness, -50 ft Chicot Evangeline Jasper
  • 18. Uncertainty – Confined System blue and black circles, values from the report apparent gw age gw age, +10 percent gw age, -10 percent 20 percent, porosity 25 percent, porosity 30 percent, porosity aquifer thickness, +50 ft aquifer thickness, -50 ft modifying each variable, the rate changes – JasperEvangeline
  • 19. Limitations of this study 1) Highly variable hydrogeology on a regional scale 2) Piston flow is likely oversimplification 3) Porosity, used were previously determined 4) Possibility of mixing within system not considered 5) The rates are point (site) specific 6) Interpretation of the environmental tracer data can be complicated along the flow path
  • 20. Publications  Oden, T.D., 2011, Groundwater environmental tracer data collected from the Chicot, Evangeline, and Jasper aquifers in Montgomery County and adjacent counties, Texas, 2008: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 580, 37 p., http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/580/  Oden, T.D. and Truini, Margot, 2013, (revised May 31, 2013) Estimated rates of groundwater recharge to the Chicot, Evangeline and Jasper aquifers by using environmental tracers in Montgomery and adjacent counties, Texas, 2008 and 2011: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5024, 50 p., http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2013/5024/  Oden, T.D., and Delin, G.N., 2013, Groundwater recharge to the Gulf Coast aquifer system in Montgomery and Adjacent Counties, Texas: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2013–3043, 6 p., http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2013/3043/.
  • 21. Thanks! Timothy Oden toden@usgs.gov 303-236-1470

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