You are on page 1of 6

Spring Brook Creek – meeting at CRWP, July 31, 2009

Spring Brook Creek Drainage Area: 6.72 sq miles (4298 acres, 17.4 square km)
(By comparison, Heath Creek drainage area 40 sq. miles (25600 acres, 103.6 sq. km); Wolf Creek 41.2 sq
miles (26370 acres, 106.6 sq. km))
Spring Brook Creek drainage area lacks the lakes in the larger drainages of this area.

Sources of water in Spring Brook Creek:
1. Springs emerging from bedrock, especially below (downstream of) Decker Ave.
2. Surface water into County Ditch above Cates and 100th St.
3. Surface water and shallow groundwater flow into creek downstream of Cates and 100th St.
4. Agricultural tile drainage
Spring Brook Creek is a perennial stream because the bedrock springs provide water even in dry periods.

What is the source of groundwater for the springs that feed the stream?
The groundwater comes from the regional St. Peter - Prairie du Chien – Jordan aquifer (see figure
below). The Ordovician Prairie du Chien formation is the closest bedrock unit to the land surface in
much of the Northfield area.

(Ground water Atlas of the United States:;
The regional recharge area for the St. Peter-Prairie du Chien – Jordan aquifer is shown as the highs in the
potentiometric surface (below) and regional groundwater flow is in the directions of the arrows, moving
from the recharge areas to discharge along major rivers..

Figure source: Ground water Atlas of the United States (;
The Prairie du Chien is the thickest of the formations in the regional aquifer. It is a carbonate unit and
ground water within this formation travels in enlarged fractures and other openings. Groundwater velocities
in such karst aquifers can be very high, which is one of the reasons (along with the thin cover of surficial
materials) why the aquifer in the Northfield area is considered sensitive to pollution (see Rice County
Geologic Atlas, part B, plate 9).

2. What are the soils and how do they affect infiltration?
There are multiple ways to think about the soils. The total thickness of unconsolidated material over bedrock
in the Spring Brook Creek drainage area is less than 150 feet (MGS Rice County Geologic Atlas, Plate 5,
Depth to Bedrock). (On the inset map, from that plate,
the white areas are bedrock <50 feet below the surface, the yellow areas 50-100 ft. and the orange areas 100-
150 feet. Vertical and horizontal section lines are spaced one mile apart.) This thickness consists of a variety
of materials: soils (say, the top meter) and the unconsolidated material below them, much of which is either
glacial or river deposits (or a combination). Thus the properties of the material, as they affect infiltration,
vary both laterally and vertically. The glacial deposits formed as ice stagnated on the east margin of the Des
Moines Lobe and they include areas (and thicknesses) of sand and gravel as well as more clay-rich glacial

I have generated a series of maps based on the NRCS soils mapping (using, that show properties such as drainage class,
hydraulic conductivity (a measure of how well the soil can transmit water), the available water capacity, and
the extent of hydric soils for the top meter or so of the surface. It is important to note that all of these maps
are derivative: the original information is the soils mapping. A representative example, shown below, is the
drainage class map. On this map, the orange and yellow colors are well drained to excessively drained and
the aqua and blue colors are somewhat poorly drained to very poorly drained.

Source: NRCS soils mapping (using For orientation
and scale, note Cannon River in southeast corner of map and poorly-drained soils along the stream courses;
Decker Ave. is the major N-S road.
Hydric Soils: Source: NRCS soils mapping (using
Hydric soils are shown in red; note that these correspond to the poorly drained soils of the previous map. For
orientation and scale, note Cannon River in southeast corner of map and hydric soils along the stream
courses; Decker Ave. is the major N-S road.

3. What if anything needs to be done to protect the recharge area of ground water?
In addition to the regional recharge picture shown above, there are some local recharge areas, including a
major E-W divide about 5 miles south of the southern border of Rice County (Rice County Geologic Atlas,
plate 8 description). The Rice County geologic atlas, plate 8, maps the potentiometric surface of the main
bedrock aquifer. (In general, groundwater flows from areas of high potentiometric potential to areas of lower
potential). Within Rice County, the map shows a high in the surface in SW Rice County, and four, more local
highs in west-central Rice County. One of these highs is due west of the Spring Brook Creek drainage (see
map below). These are the features that control the flow into the Spring Brook Creek area. Note that the
recharge area is broad, yet the discharge areas (the spring systems, including those along streams) are narrow.
Recharge amount has been estimated at 4-12 inches/year (Chris Elvrum, Metropolitan Council, 2007 – accessed July 30, 2009). Note that a water from a
well within the Spring Brook drainage area has a “mixed” tritium age, meaning that the water is partly recent
(post 1945) and partly old (>50 years). Colors on the map show that the saturated

aquifer thickness in the area ranges from 100-300 feet. Vertical and horizontal section lines are spaced one
mile apart.

Although the regional recharge system probably explains the origin of most water in Spring Brook Creek, the
local recharge conditions are also important, because of the proximity of the bedrock aquifers to the ground
surface and the potential for pollution. The two diagrams below come from the Rice County Geologic Atlas,
Plate 9. For orientation and scale, note the vertical and horizontal section lines one mile apart.

The first diagram shows the recharge conditions for all of Rice County. The units in the Spring Brook Creek
drainage area are: aquifer at or near the surface, alluvium, and thin Wisconsinan (relatively young, ~14,000
years old) till above the aquifer. “Thin” is the operative term. Also, “till” here means all kinds of glacial
material of different properties. The second diagram (below) shows the sensitivity of the aquifer to pollution.
The nearness of the bedrock to the land surface, the presence of alluvium and the thin cover of glacial
material all combine to make a large part of the Northfield area sensitive to very sensitive.

4. How much infiltration would be needed in the area where annexation and industrial development is
It is desirable to maintain the amount natural infiltration in this area (that is, by allowing surface runoff to
infiltrate into the ground. However, since the ultimate sources of recharge are at least 5 miles west of the
development site (and recharge happens over a broad area), it is more important to channel surface runoff
away from the stream and allow it to infiltrate (and cool and clean).

The two most important things to take away:
Maintaining Spring Brook Creek as a trout stream will require:
a) preserving the flow of groundwater into the creek. If a development draws a great deal of water from
a source near the creek, there is a possibility that flow to the creek will be compromised. This is a good
reason to require that any development be put on Northfield City water supply (as the entire community of
Dundas is). Although Northfield City also draws from the Prairie du Chien – Jordan aquifer, the Cannon
River appears to separate two areas of different aquifer flow directions;
b) preventing surface water draining from the development from diluting the ground water. The major
risk here is changing the temperature, although pollutants are also important.

More about water in Bridgewater Township:

Main Sources:
Ground water Atlas of the United States:
Web soil survey:
Rice County Geologic Atlas: (links to individual plates from

M. Savina July 31, 2009
(contact email: