You are on page 1of 59

GEOS 4430 Lecture Notes: Introduction to Hydrogeology

Dr. T. Brikowski Fall 2012

le:introduction.tex,v (v. 1.43), printed August 28, 2012

See NBC Thirsty Planet series, e.g. American West

Why Study Hydrogeology?

Population growth and global warming will lead to severe freshwater shortages in the near future. U.S. West: Emphasis on groundwater. Water is a crucial problem west of 100o W longitude [the east side of the Texas panhandle, J. W. Powell, 1875, quoted in Stegner, 1954]. average U.S. precipitation shows distinct drop-o west of 100o (Fig. 1) Situation best summarized by Mark Twain (apocryphal): [In the West] whiskey is for drinking, water is for ghting over . . . 1

East: emphasis on surface water management (rivers, lakes, etc.) and drainage, contamination remediation, and sea water intrusion. Also seawater intrusion. World: world wide water stress (pg. 61) increasing rapidly, causing much suering and potential war. See also decadal summary Upper-vs-lower basin water usage similar to western U.S.Colorado River (p. 33) issues. See also USBR Colo. R. sustainability study Euphrates River (Fig. 3): Turkey vs. Syria and Iraq. Drying of Iraq marshes. Nile River basin (Fig. 4). Egypt vs. Sudan and Ethiopia. See Nile Basin Initiative 3

Declining snowpack: primarily Himalaya, which supplies much of India and south Asia (Fig. 5)

U.S. Precipitation 2009

Figure 1: Total precipitation, U.S., 2003. Note large dropo west of the Texas panhandle. After NOAA. 5

World Freshwater Stress

Figure 2:

Observed and projected world freshwater stress (fraction

produced vs. available). After UNEP, updated at World Economic Forum

Euphrates River Basin

Figure 3: Euphrates river basin. After WorthNews. See also satellite photos, NPR 2009 of Ataturk Reservoir, Turkey. 7

Nile River Basin

Figure 4: Nile river basin elevation and hydrology. WaterWatch. 8


Himalayan Snowpack Decline

Figure 5: Changes in extent of glaciers in the Western Himalaya [Fig. 1, Prasad and Singh, 2007]. See more immediate problem in Peru. 9

Texas 2011 Drought

worst single-year drought in Texas history Drought Monitor, also seasonal drought outlook severe impacts, e.g. Amarillo water supply, Lake Meredith currently empty (ocial dead pool elev is 2850 ft, 2011 record low of 2842.5 ft, depth 28.5 ft) North Dallas (NTWMD) in persistent Stage II water restrictions very unusual conditions (see TX State Climatologist blog, continues trend of high-T departure from historical trends 10

U.S. Trouble Spots

Western Colorado River about 35 million people depend on this river for drinking water since 2002 demand has exceeded supply by 10% (see Fig. 1, USBR Basin Status Report 11 year drought has greatly depleted storage in the system (e.g. Lake Mead, Fig. 6) fortunately, per-capita water use has declined signicantly (Figs. 6-7) in that basin, meaning conservation can help a lot


Climate Change and Drought

see Global Change Impacts in the United States, [USGCRP, 2009] Warming predictions: U.S. average temperature has risen by 1.1C in the past 50 years expect additional 5-6C warming by 2100 at current CO2 emissions rates [p. 29, USGCRP, 2009] greatest warming in mid-continent, especially west ( [Colorado River headwaters, p. 29 USGCRP, 2009] (compare to 1940-2005 observed trends optimistic models of reduced emissions predict 3-4C warming 12

will result in over half the year with days warmer than 90F by 2100 in North Texas [p. 34, USGCRP, 2009] around 120 days over 100F for North Texas by 2100 [p. 90, USGCRP, 2009] only mild changes in precipitation predicted [p. USGCRP, 2009] 30-31,

warming will lead to increased evapotranspiration by plants, leading to signicant water stress in part of U.S. and midlatitudes worldwide (Fig. 8) Get ready for a wild ride! E.g. Australian example 12 year drought began around 2000, part of a general southern hemisphere drought 13

forced steep decline in rice production, leading to global shortages and conversion to wind production some reservoirs dropped to 12% of normal (compare to Lake Lavon, where at 35% of normal Stage 4 Emergency restrictions apply, no outdoor use of water) drought ended 2010 with heavy rains, reservoirs rising, now at 35% of capacity Australian electorate now becoming quite serious about climate change drought has resumed along west coast (Perth)


Lake Mead, NV
Lake Mead, NV Monthly Water Elevation 1240 Maximum 1220 1200 1180 1160 1140 Drought 1120 1100 1080 1060 1940 1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 Critical Shortage Average

Figure 6:

Lake Mead, NV monthly water levels 1937-present. Current levels approaching those experienced in shorter

severe droughts 1955 and 1965. Mandatory rationing below shortage line, AZ handles 94% of the rationing, NV the rest. Mead supplies 90% of LV water.

Water Elevation (ft)


Las Vegas City Water Intake Tunnel

Figure 7:

Las Vegas-Lake Mead water intake tunnel plan. One of two current intakes is at 1,050 ft elev, and may soon

be above water. From TunnelTalk.


Warming-Related Water Stress

Figure 8: Warming will greatly aect water availability by 2100; IPCC4

[2007] lower emissions scenario (SRESa1b) mean results.


Unique U.S. Water Stresses

hydrofracing uses considerable water 2012 drought is bringing pressure to recycle that water or halt this use others such as beverage industries have recognized that water access is their most persistent future business risk factor i.e. hydrology is important even to oil and other geologists


Water Trends


Water Sources
average water usage in U.S. is 30% groundwater (Fig. 9) U.S. water usage trends: Consumptive water use up steadily ratio of groundwater to surface water also generally up, partly due to climate (recent droughts increased groundwater extraction) since 1980 water use down slightly, but ground/surface water ratio increasing (Fig. 9) U.S. Climate trends long term climate predictions are for signicant heating, little precipitation change 20

historical trends show notable warming in the West (1 F /decade) since 1970, and increase in precipitation


Total Water Usage in the U.S., 1950-2005

Figure 9: Total water usage by source in the U.S., 1950-2005. Groundwater use is steadily increasing, total and surface water use has leveled o. See USGS, and [Hutson et al., 2004]. 22

U.S. Water Usage by Category, 1950-2005

Figure 10: Total water usage by category in the U.S., 1950-2005.

Approximately 30% of thermoelectric water was saline (TDS above drinking water standard of 1000 mg/l), 2.5% of the thermoelectric total was consumptive use (not returned to surface or groundwater streams).


Water Usage
average groundwater usage in western U.S. is much higher average groundwater usage in Texas 60%, and generally increasing with time (Fig. 11) largest users in west are agricultural irrigation, but this is declining, partly in favor of municipal use (Fig. 12) 94% of NTX use is surface water. Current status of N. Texas reservoirs or NOAA


Sources of Consumed Water, Texas, 1974-1993

Figure 11: Sources of consumed water, Texas, 1974-1993. Texas Water Resources Planning Commision. 25

TX Water Use Categories 1974, 1993 & 2008

Figure 12: Water usage categories, Texas, 1974 (left), 1993 (middle) and
2008 (right). Municipal usage (blue in right two gures, green on left) has grown from 12% in 1974 to 22% in 1993 to 25% in 2002. Concomitantly irrigation usage has declined from 78% to 68% to 62% respectively. Texas Water Resources Planning Commission and TWDB.


Projected Water Usage by Category, Texas

Figure 13: Projected water usage by categories, Texas. From Texas Water Plan 2002. Municipal usage will increase more rapidly than decrease in irrigation. 27

City Water Usage, Texas, 2006

Per-Capita Water Use 2006
280 260 240

220 Gallons/Capita/Day (GPCD)






Tucson, AZ




Figure 14: 2006 Estimated water usage for Texas cities with population
greater than 95,000. Richardson has the greatest usage, nearly double that of San Antonio, and higher than Las Vegas. Data from TWDB, see also Texas Comptroller.



Las Vegas, NV









Projected Groundwater Supply, Texas

Figure 15: Projected groundwater availability, Texas major aquifers. From Texas Water Plan 2002. See aquifer map for locations. 29

High Plains Aquifer Lifetime

C anadian R ive


New Mexico Te x a s


POTTER Amarillo




Oklahoma Te x a s









o g To w n



F ork Red River











Already Below 30 feet Less than 15 years 16 to 30 years 31 to 50 years 51 to 75 years 76 to 100 years

Estimated Usable Aquifer Lifetime

Interstate Major Road

Perennial Stream




County Boundary Ogallala Aquifer Extent Outside of Texas Land Surface Over the Ogallala Aquifer in West Texas

Greater than 100 years Water Table Rising

0 5 10

No Saturated Thickness Change between 1990 and 2004

20 Miles 30





Midland Odessa ECTOR







Figure 16: Projections for usable lifetime of Ogallalla Aquifer, Texas Panhandle. From TTU. 30










India Groundwater Declines

Figure 17: India annual pumping as fraction of recharge. From NASA. 31

California Snowpack Reduction

Figure 18:

Projected climate-change-related changes to California

snowpack. From Climate Change and Water Resources Factsheet. Lake Lavon can hold 275,000 acre-ft of water. See 2007-2009 summary , note 2008 La Ni na event. Also interactive prediction maps.


What Hydrologists Do
primarily addressed water supply issues until 1970s (i.e. nding water) emphasis on contamination issues since creation of EPA requires a much more quantitative approach typically involving governmental regulations and/or lawyers current emphasis on doing nothing: nding and preserving uncontaminated water supplies, establishing natural attenuation as the typical remediation approach also Brownelds (development of contaminated properties, e.g. American Airlines Center) now returning to water supply issues given the problems of drought, global warming and full allocation of resources 33

see also USGS Hydrology Primer (last updated 2010)




Ground Water: two overlapping denitions subsurface water that occurs beneath the water table in porous geologic formations that are fully saturated that portion of subsurface water that can be collected with wells, drainage pipes etc., or that ow naturally to the surface via springs and seeps (NOTE: not all subsurface water is groundwater) important to remember there is accessible and inaccessible water in the subsurface


Denitions (cont.)
Ground Water Hydrology: the study of the origin, distribution, movement and physical/chemical properties of ground water. A subset of hydrology, the study of all terrestrial waters. Surface Water Hydrology: the study of subaerial waters (in contact with the atmosphere), excluding oceans. Civil engineers usually mean lakes and bays, geologists usually mean rivers and streams when using this term. Hydrogeology: emphasizes the hydrologic aspects of geology, e.g. lithologic or facies inuences on groundwater movement Geohydrology: emphasizing geologic aspects of hydrology, 37

particularly the eects of the porous medium through which groundwater ows. in principle Hydrogeology and Geohydrology have dierent meanings, in common usage they are identical Hydrosphere: that region of the Earth occupied by water, including lakes, rivers, oceans, subsurface water, glaciers, +/- atmospheric water (clouds, vapor, precipitation)


The Hydrologic Cycle


Denitions: Hydrologic Cycle

the hydrologic cycle refers to the global chemical balance of H2O in the hydrosphere (Fig. 19) start with Precipitation - form is important, e.g. in Nevada snow is generally biggest contributor to groundwater some part of precipitation onto the ground becomes surface runo or overland ow the rest is inltration: Ppore Patmosphere driven by gravity and pressure,

much inltrated water goes back out to the atmosphere by 40

evaporation or transpiration (uptake by plants and release to atmosphere) inltration that makes it to the water table becomes groundwater, and is termed recharge while inltrated water is above the water table, it forms an unsaturated (or vadose) zone where pores are lled with a mixture of air and water. Pore pressure is negative in this zone. groundwater in the saturated zone is found in aquifers (rocks through which water travels most easily). These are generally separated by aquitards (water travels slowly through these) or aquicludes (impermeable zones or layers) 41

within the aquifer, water occupies the accessible pore space in the rock (some pores may be blocked o, or permanently occupied by something else. The accessible space is referred to as the eective porosity groundwater that discharges into a stream is termed baseow (total ow in the stream is runo)


Quantied Hydrologic Cycle

Figure 19: An illustration of the hydrologic cycle. After online textbook. See ux estimates (p. 5) for water balance. 43

Water Balance

much of hydrology is based on determining the water balance for all or some part of the hydrosphere (e.g. a groundwater basin) water balance is just a mass balance: rate of mass in rate of mass out = change in content


Groundwater Basics
Some good online resources are now available to provide overviews of hydrology. My current favorite is the USGS Basic groundwater hydrology publication [Heath, 1987]. The classic textbook Freeze and Cherry [1979] is now quite old, but is one of the few calculusbased geologic hydrology texts (much more readable than civil engineering texts).


Aquifer Types

See also Fig. 20: conning layer (aquiclude): low-permeability bed or unit conned aquifer: an aquifer overlain by a conning layer unconned aquifer (phreatic or water table): water table lies below the top of the aquifer semi-conned: an aquifer exhibiting conned and unconned behavior at dierent locations (e.g. a sand layer in an alluvial fan) 46

artesian: can simply mean conned, in common usage it means an aquifer from which water will ow upward to the surface given an appropriate conduit (e.g. a borehole) perched: a saturated zone lying above unsaturated rock


Aquifer Features

Figure 20: Important features of groundwater systems, including aquifer/aquitard, water table, etc. After Heath [1987]. 48

Water Table Denitions

the undulating plane below the ground surface at which pore water pressure is equal to atmospheric also the dividing line between the unsaturated and saturated zones Phreatic surface: the level to which water will rise in a well open only within the aquifer dierent than the water table only for conned aquifers when phreatic surface lies at or above the ground surface, an artesian well or spring is possible 49

Motivating Examples


Southwest Drought 1998-2010

12-year drought (as of 2010) longest in historical record [Overpeck and Udall, 2010] consistent with pre-historic extreme droughts [USGCRP, 2009, p. 130] longer and more frequent droughts predicted by climate change models, would reduce supply to less than current demand within the decade [Barnett and Pierce, 2008] i.e. permanent water shortage in most of the Southwest


Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone

The most severe nutrient pollution issue in U.S. is Gulf Coast Dead Zone, with Chesapeake Bay a close second. high nutrient loads in Mississippi River discharge lead to large algal blooms [CENR, 2000, p. 13] seasonal stratication leads to hypoxia zone, killing marine life, e.g. Baltic Sea image see summary of nutrient source spatial and temporal distribution [CENR, 2000, p. 27, 29], also USGS streamow & nutrient delivery to Gulf of Mexico see LSU Current Status webpage 52

expanding steadily with time (2010 is largest ever measured, area the size of New Jersey)


Other Resources


Useful Links
This is intended to be an ever-evolving list of useful links on the general topic of this note set. groundwater extraction is 40% of sea level rise [Pokhrel et al., 2012]




Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce. When will Lake Mead go dry? Water Resour. Res., 44 (W03201), 29 March 2008. doi: 10.1029/2007WR006704. URL journals/pip/wr/2007WR006704-pip.pdf.

CENR. Integrated Assessment of Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Report, National Science and Technology Council Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Washington, D.C., May 2000. URL finalfront.pdf.

R. A. Freeze and J. A. Cherry. Groundwater. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Clis, NJ, 1979.

R. C. Heath. Basic ground-water hydrology. Water Supply Paper 2220, U.S. Geol. Survey, Denver, CO, 1987. URL

S. S. Hutson, N. L. Barber, J. F. Kenny, K. S. Linsey, D. S. Lumia, and M. A. Maupin. Estimated use of water in the united states in 2000. Circular 1268, U. S. Geol. Survey, Reston, VA, May 2004. URL

IPCC4. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policymakers (4th Climate Assessment Report). Technical report, U.N. Intergov. Panel on Climate Change, 5 February 2007. URL 18 pp.

Jonathan Overpeck and Bradley Udall. Dry times ahead. Science, 328(5986):16421643, 2010. doi: 10.1126/science.1186591. URL

Yadu N. Pokhrel, Naota Hanasaki, Pat J-F Yeh, Tomohito J. Yamada, Shinjiro Kanae, and Taikan Oki. Model estimates of sea-level change due to anthropogenic impacts on terrestrial water storage. Nature Geosci, advance online publication, May 2012. ISSN 1752-0908. doi: 10.1038/ngeo1476. URL

A. K. Prasad and R. P. Singh. Changes in Himalayan Snow and Glacier Cover Between 1972 and 2000. EOS, 88(33):326, 17 August 2007. doi: 10.1029/2007EO330002.

W. E. Stegner. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West. Houghton Miin, Boston, 1954.


USGCRP. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. Cambridge University Press, 2009. URL scientific-assessments/us-impacts. Quadrennial report to U.S. Congress.