Simulation of the regional ground-water-flow system and ground-water/surface-water interaction in the Rock River basin, Wisconsin

Juckem, P.F.

Scientific Investigations Report: 38


Accession: 037156180

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A regional, two-dimensional, areal ground-water-flow model was developed to simulate the ground-water-flow system and ground-water/surface-water interaction in the Rock River Basin. The model was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Rock River Coalition. The objectives of the regional model were to improve understanding of the ground-water-flow system and to develop a tool suitable for evaluating the effects of potential regional water-management programs. The computer code GFLOW was used because of the ease with which the model can simulate ground-water/surface-water interactions, provide a framework for simulating regional ground-water-flow systems, and be refined in a stepwise fashion to incorporate new data and simulate ground-water-flow patterns at multiple scales. The ground-water-flow model described in this report simulates the major hydrogeologic features of the modeled area, including bedrock and surficial aquifers, ground-water/surface-water interactions, and ground-water withdrawals from high-capacity wells. The steady-state model treats the ground-water-flow system as a single layer with hydraulic conductivity and base elevation zones that reflect the distribution of lithologic groups above the Precambrian bedrock and a regionally significant confining unit, the Maquoketa Formation. In the eastern part of the Basin where the shale-rich Maquoketa Formation is present, deep ground-water flow in the sandstone aquifer below the Maquoketa Formation was not simulated directly, but flow into this aquifer was incorporated into the GFLOW model from previous work in southeastern Wisconsin. Recharge was constrained primarily by stream base-flow estimates and was applied uniformly within zones guided by regional infiltration estimates for soils. The model includes average ground-water withdrawals from 1997 to 2006 for municipal wells and from 1997 to 2005 for high-capacity irrigation, industrial, and commercial wells. In addition, the model routes tributary base flow through the river network to the Rock River. The parameter-estimation code PEST was linked to the GFLOW model to select the combination of parameter values best able to match more than 8,000 water-level measurements and base-flow estimates at 9 streamgages. Results from the calibrated GFLOW model show simulated (1) ground-water-flow directions, (2) ground-water/surface-water interactions, as depicted in a map of gaining and losing river and lake sections, (3) ground-water contributing areas for selected tributary rivers, and (4) areas of relatively local ground water captured by rivers. Ground-water flow patterns are controlled primarily by river geometries, with most river sections gaining water from the ground-water-flow system; losing sections are most common on the downgradient shore of lakes and reservoirs or near major pumping centers. Ground-water contributing areas to tributary rivers generally coincide with surface watersheds; however the locations of ground-water divides are controlled by the water table, whereas surface-water divides are controlled by surface topography. Finally, areas of relatively local ground water captured by rivers generally extend upgradient from rivers but are modified by the regional flow pattern, such that these areas tend to shift toward regional ground-water divides for relatively small rivers.