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chapter one
Introduction
Why Arc Hydro for groundwater?
FRESHWATER I S ONE OF THE EARTH’ S MOST PRECI OUS RESOURCES, VI TAL TO
human life and to plant and animal life. The volume of groundwater is much larger
than the volume of water in rivers and lakes, but it lies hidden beneath the land surface
in aquifers. About 90 percent of the earth’s readily available freshwater is stored as
groundwater, slowly percolating through the pore spaces and fractures of rocks near
the earth’s surface. Large regions of the world depend on groundwater for their water
supply, particularly in rural areas, because aquifers are spatially extensive.
Groundwater has not been a traditional area of application of geographic information
systems (GIS) to water resources, in part because groundwater resources are less visible
and readily mapped compared to streams, rivers, lakes, and watersheds. Also, ground-
water is inherently a 3D phenomenon because the depth at which water is found in a well
is a critical measure of its accessibility. As a well is drilled, its borehole passes through
many subsurface strata laid down in layers over geologic time. The spatial extent of these
layers is much larger than is their vertical thickness, much like sheets of paper, so 2D
GIS mapping of well locations and aquifer boundaries is the normal point of departure
for groundwater projects. The core framework of the Arc Hydro data model supports
2D mapping of groundwater resources, and the extensions of this model support 3D
representations of boreholes and hydrogeologic strata.
DAVI D R . MAI DME NT
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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
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We use a number of terms to defne different
aspects of Arc Hydro. The name Arc Hydro refers to
the overall data model for representing hydrology,
including surface water and groundwater. Within
this book we refer to this general model as the Arc
Hydro data model, or simply as Arc Hydro. The
frst version of Arc Hydro mainly described sur-
face water systems including drainage, river net-
works, and time series. This work was published
in a book titled Arc Hydro: GIS for Water Resources
(Maidment 2002). The original Arc Hydro has been
redesigned to include a simplifed framework for
representing the basic surface water and ground-
water features. Within this book we refer to the
framework data model as the Arc Hydro Frame-
work, or simply as the framework. You can add
surface water and groundwater components to the
Arc Hydro Framework to describe different aspects
of hydrologic systems (the framework data model
and the components are described in chapter 2).
We refer to the groundwater components of the
data model as Arc Hydro Groundwater, or simply
as the groundwater data model, which is the focus
of Arc Hydro Groundwater: GIS for Hydrogeology.
Arc Hydro is not just a set of data models. Rich
sets of tools have been developed to help ArcGIS
users implement the data model, organize their
data, and create GIS products. These tools make
use of the standard data structures and the rela-
tionships between features within the data model
to enhance the capabilities of ArcGIS for the man-
agement and analysis of water resources. For
surface water analysis, a set of tools named Arc
Hydro Tools has been developed by Esri. These
tools are available on the Esri Web site (www.esri.
com/archydro). For groundwater analysis a set of
Figure 1.1 The hydrologic cycle depicts the circulation of the waters of the earth.
What makes water different when it comes to GIS?
3
tools named Arc Hydro Groundwater Tools has
been developed by collaboration between Aqua-
veo, a water resources engineering consulting frm
in Provo, Utah, and Esri, and are available on the
Aquaveo Web site (www.aquaveo.com/archydro).
What makes water diferent when it
comes to GIS?
GIS is applied to many felds of endeavor, indeed to
any feld in which data can be depicted geospatially.
So, what makes water different? Why do we need
special geographic data models for water? First of
all, water is a subtle substance. It fows from one
place to another on the land surface and through
the subsurface; water evaporates and travels great
distances rapidly in the atmosphere and then
returns to the earth again as precipitation. It fows
in streams and rivers and accumulates in lakes,
bays, and estuaries to form the blue features on
topographic maps. Water movement through the
hydrologic cycle (fgure 1.1) is extremely complex
and is still not completely understood.
Using GIS to describe natural water systems
requires a means to describe the connectivity of
water fow through the landscape. It is not enough
to know that there are geographic data layers of
water features like streams, aquifers, and wells. It
also matters which streams contribute water to
a particular aquifer and which wells are drilled
into that aquifer to supply water for domestic
consumption or irrigation. Only in this way can
we understand the infow and outfow of water,
in particular groundwater systems, and thus
manage these systems wisely. This book, Arc Hydro
Groundwater: GIS for Hydrogeology, describes a geo-
graphic data model for hydrogeology, using the
Edwards Aquifer in Texas as a vehicle for devel-
oping and explaining concepts. The surface water
components are described in the book Arc Hydro:
GIS for Water Resources (Maidment 2002), which
is planned to be updated to refect the new Arc
Hydro design. These books describe something
more than geographic data models for surface
and groundwater — they describe a geographic
data framework for water, with particular com-
ponents to depict different aspects of surface and
groundwater systems.
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
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Edwards Aquifer
Aquifer systems are vital to the regions that overlie
them. The Edwards Aquifer (fgure 1.2) underlies
the cities of San Antonio, San Marcos, and Austin
in south-central Texas. San Antonio is the largest
city in the United States whose water supply
comes principally from groundwater, distributed
throughout the city after being pumped from hun-
dreds of wells drilled into the Edwards Aquifer.
Water from these wells supports a population of
more than 2 million people.
Figure 1.2 Map of the Edwards Aquifer region showing the zones within the aquifer and the recharge zone contributing
surface water to the aquifer.
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What makes water different when it comes to GIS?
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In San Marcos and Austin, beautiful springs
discharge water from the Edwards Aquifer.
Figure  1.3 shows the pool overlying San Marcos
Springs. The deep water is perfectly clear — you
can even see sand grains jumping on the bed-
rock as the groundwater discharges over them.
This peaceful haven in San Marcos has sustained
people for thousands of years and is considered
to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited
places in North America.
The Edwards Aquifer is not just an environment
of water and rocks. It is home to creatures such
as the blind salamander, an almost transparent
amphibian perfectly adapted to its life in the
perpetual darkness of the aquifer’s underground
cavities. Indeed, it is the necessity to sustain
the spring fow and support the populations of
endangered species such as the blind salamander
that triggers restrictions on water pumping from
the aquifer when water levels are low. The pres-
sure of population growth bears down upon the
Edwards Aquifer. New housing developments,
shops, offces, and roads are spreading where
once there was a quiet forest. Bacteria and chemi-
cals washed down with runoff waters are invad-
ing the pristine aquifer environment. Careful
management of both water quantity and quality
in the aquifer are needed to preserve this pre-
cious asset to sustain future generations as it has
sustained those of the past.
Figure 1.3 Tourists get a picturesque view of the abundant plant and fsh life in the San Marcos Springs through a glass-
bottom boat.
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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
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Surface water and groundwater
Groundwater is strongly related with surface
water in the Edwards Aquifer. Water seeping
through the limestone rock of the aquifer has cre-
ated a karst landscape with many caves, fractures,
and sinkholes that allow fast movement of water
from the surface into the aquifer formation and
within the subsurface (fgure 1.4).
The groundwater discharge from the San
Marcos Springs forms the fow of the San Marcos
River. As this river meanders downstream, it is
joined by the Blanco River, whose fow is derived
mostly from surface runoff, and these in turn are
tributaries of the Guadalupe River, which carries
their waters to the Gulf of Mexico. Normally a
quiet, slow-moving river, the Guadalupe can turn
into a raging torrent during severe storms and
devastate the surrounding countryside.
To accurately describe the water resources of
the region, we must map both groundwater and
surface water features together (fgure  1.5) and
defne the relationships between them. This is part
of the new design of Arc Hydro, which includes
a framework data model with basic surface water
and groundwater features and additional compo-
nents describing unique aspects of surface water
and groundwater.
Groundwater datasets
In the United States, data depicted on blue lines,
the color of surface water features on topographic
maps, have been compiled by the Unites States
Geological Survey (USGS) into seamless national
hydrography datasets at scales of 1:100,000 and
1:24,000, but no equivalent national hydrogeol-
ogy dataset exists. Subsurface hydrogeologic data
are measured and archived by many federal, state,
and local groundwater agencies in a fragmented
way without a common means of data access and
synthesis. The lack of a systematic organization of
hydrogeologic and groundwater data means that
their formats vary from state to state, from loca-
tion to location, and from project to project. A new
groundwater investigation can be like an Easter
egg hunt, where you search around for the basic
data needed to support the investigation, coping
with many disparate data types and formats from
different data sources.
We envisage that the adoption of the Arc Hydro
Groundwater data model will lead to better orga-
nization of groundwater data so that standard-
ized groundwater and hydrogeologic datasets
Figure 1.4 On top is a limestone bedrock with dissolution
features. Over time, water slowly dissolves the rock and
creates fractures and recharge features. The bottom fgure
shows a 70-foot-deep vertical shaft recharging water into
the aquifer.
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Groundwater datasets
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can be systematically compiled and maintained.
Since hydrogeology is a subfeld of geology, it
is appropriate that Arc Hydro Groundwater has
a geology component to allow for incorporating
existing geologic maps and data into Arc Hydro
Groundwater datasets.
The ArcGIS Desktop software system is the key
means by which groundwater information is com-
piled and synthesized in Arc Hydro Groundwater.
However, this is now being supplemented by
ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online, by which com-
piled Arc Hydro datasets can be published on the
Internet as maps and data services. This emerg-
ing “services-oriented architecture” for geospa-
tial information is an important way for separate
organizations to publish geographically distributed
groundwater datasets in a manner that facilitates
their assembly and integration over a region.
Figure 1.5 The Edwards Aquifer (in brown) and the Guadalupe River Basin (with the watershed in green and rivers in blue)
are located in Central Texas. A strong connectivity exists between surface water recharging the aquifer through streams
fowing over the outcrop of the aquifer and groundwater discharging through springs.
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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
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Groundwater wells
Wells provide the most abundant source of
groundwater information. Many large tabular
databases describing wells exist, both as “well
logs” that describe the details of well construction
and the subsurface materials encountered while
drilling, and as “observations” that describe the
water level and sometimes the chemical proper-
ties of the well water indexed by time. This infor-
mation is sparse both in space and in time: sparse
in space because each well is an individual entity,
and they are drilled relatively far apart from one
another; sparse in time because groundwater con-
ditions change slowly, and most wells are manu-
ally sampled infrequently over periods of months
or years. Figure  1.6 shows an artesian groundwa-
ter well, with water fowing freely from the sub-
surface. This is common to the artesian zones of
the Edwards Aquifer.
This sparse information must be interpreted and
interpolated to generate spatial maps of ground-
water properties, in particular to produce piezo-
metric head maps that describe the spatial patterns
of groundwater levels (or pressures) in aquifers. If
piezometric head maps are constructed for succes-
sive periods of time and subtracted one from the
next, a picture of the rise and fall of groundwater
conditions through time can be obtained. The Arc
Hydro Groundwater tools include geoprocessing
tools and models for accomplishing this task (see
chapter 7).
Figure 1.6 Groundwater under pressure fows freely from a
confned aquifer to the surface of this fowing artesian well.
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Groundwater strata
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Groundwater strata
Understanding groundwater systems requires
being able to depict their horizontal extent and also
their vertical structure, usually visualized as cross-
sections cut through the various hydrogeologic
strata (fgure 1.7).
In Arc Hydro Groundwater, tabular information
from well logs about the “contact points” at which
the well driller encountered each new subsurface
layer is translated within ArcGIS into a 3D vertical
representation of the borehole. Cross-sections can
be drawn by connecting a sequence of boreholes
or by cutting directly through a “geovolume” rep-
resentation of the 3D structure of these hydrogeo-
logic units. A special extension of the Arc Hydro
Groundwater tools called Subsurface Analyst can
be used to perform these functions.
Figure 1.7 A typical cross section of the Edwards Aquifer describes strata, hydrogeologic units, and features such as faults
and wells within the subsurface.
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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
10
Groundwater modeling
Because groundwater systems are largely hidden
from sight, groundwater simulation models are
used to infer the properties of groundwater sys-
tems and to simulate the fow and storage of water
within the subsurface under variable conditions,
including natural conditions and human-made
infuences such as pumping. The most widely
used groundwater simulation model is MOD-
FLOW, produced by the USGS, which is as much
of a standard in the groundwater feld as ArcGIS
is a standard for geographic information systems.
The various data arrays in a MODFLOW model
are like the pages in a groundwater system book.
As you view them one by one, you see the spatial
extent and physical properties of the aquifer, such
as its thickness, porosity, and hydraulic conduc-
tivity (fgure  1.8). You see the pumping stresses,
fow patterns, and recharge and discharge vol-
umes, and you see the piezometric head map that
depicts the levels of water within the different
layers of the groundwater system.
The Arc Hydro Groundwater tools include a
special extension called MODFLOW Analyst that
enables MODFLOW descriptions of groundwater
Figure 1.8 Simulated distribution of horizontal hydraulic conductivity for a calibrated MODFLOW model of the southern
part of the Edwards Aquifer. Warmer colors represent higher conductivity and faster movement of water within the aqui-
fer. The linear features within the model represent conduits with very high conductivity.
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Scope of the book
11
systems to be viewed and mapped in ArcGIS, thus
enabling a much larger audience to understand
the behavior of groundwater systems simulated
with MODFLOW (see chapter 8).
Scope of the book
The book is divided into nine chapters. The frst
three chapters introduce the subject, describe the
core framework data model, and present an expo-
sition of how to represent 3D objects in ArcGIS.
The next three chapters present components of
the groundwater data model for geological map-
ping, wells and aquifers, and 3D hydrostratigra-
phy. The fnal three chapters describe time series,
groundwater modeling, and implementation of
the groundwater data model in ArcGIS.
It is important to understand some of the
limitations of this book — we are describing an
information model for groundwater data. This is
not a book about groundwater simulation model-
ing. Arc Hydro Groundwater can be used to help
create groundwater simulation models and to
store the results of groundwater simulations, but
Arc Hydro Groundwater is not itself a ground-
water simulation model. Likewise, although we
devote considerable attention to hydrogeology,
Arc Hydro Groundwater is not intended to capture
all the detailed cartographic aspects of geologic
and hydrogeologic mapping. Our focus is on the
groundwater environment and on the properties
of the water fowing through that environment.
References
Lindgren, R. J., A. R. Dutton, S. D. Hovorka, S. R. H. Worthing-
ton, and P. Scott. 2004. Conceptualization and simulation of
the Edwards aquifer, San Antonio region, Texas: U.S. Geolog-
ical Survey Scientifc Investigations Report 2004 – 5277, 143 p.
Maidment, D. R., ed. 2002. Arc Hydro: GIS for Water Resources.
Redlands, California: Esri Press.

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