Use of a ground-water flow model with particle tracking to evaluate ground-water vulnerability, Clark County, Washington

Open-File Report 96-328

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A ground-water flow model was used in conjunction with particle tracking to evaluate ground-water vulnerability in Clark County, Washington. Using the particle-tracking program, particles were placed in every cell of the flow model (about 60,000 particles) and tracked backwards in time and space upgradient along flow paths to their recharge points. A new computer program was developed that interfaces the results from a particle-tracking program with a geographic information system (GIS). The GIS was used to display and analyze the particle-tracking results. Ground-water vulnerability was evaluated by selecting parts of the ground-water flow system and combining the results with ancillary information stored in the GIS to determine recharge areas, characteristics of recharge areas, downgradient impact of land use at recharge areas, and age of ground water. Maps of the recharge areas for each hydrogeologic unit illustrate the presence of local, intermediate, or regional ground-water flow systems and emphasize the three-dimensional nature of the ground-water flow system in Clark County. Maps of the recharge points for each hydrogeologic unit were overlaid with maps depicting aquifer sensitivity as determined by DRASTIC (a measure of the pollution potential of ground water, based on the intrinsic characteristics of the near-surface unsaturated and saturated zones) and recharge from on-site waste-disposal systems. A large number of recharge areas were identified, particularly in southern Clark County, that have a high aquifer sensitivity, coincide with areas of recharge from on-site waste-disposal systems, or both. Using the GIS, the characteristics of the recharge areas were related to the downgradient parts of the ground-water system that will eventually receive flow that has recharged through these areas. The aquifer sensitivity, as indicated by DRASTIC, of the recharge areas for downgradient parts of the flow system was mapped for each hydrogeologic unit. A number of public-supply wells in Clark County may be receiving a component of water that recharged in areas that are more conducive to contaminant entry. The aquifer sensitivity maps illustrate a critical deficiency in the DRASTIC methodology: the failure to account for the dynamics of the ground-water flow system. DRASTIC indices calculated for a particular location thus do not necessarily reflect the conditions of the ground-water resources at the recharge areas to that particular location. Each hydrogeologic unit was also mapped to highlight those areas that will eventually receive flow from recharge areas with on-site waste-disposal systems. Most public-supply wells in southern Clark County may eventually receive a component of water that was recharged from on-site waste-disposal systems.Traveltimes from particle tracking were used to estimate the minimum and maximum age of ground water within each model-grid cell. Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-age dating of ground water from 51 wells was used to calibrate effective porosity values used for the particle- tracking program by comparison of ground-water ages determined through the use of the CFC-age dating with those calculated by the particle- tracking program. There was a 76 percent agreement in predicting the presence of modern water in the 51 wells as determined using CFCs and calculated by the particle-tracking program. Maps showing the age of ground water were prepared for all the hydrogeologic units. Areas with the youngest ground-water ages are expected to be at greatest risk for contamination from anthropogenic sources. Comparison of these maps with maps of public- supply wells in Clark County indicates that most of these wells may withdraw ground water that is, in part, less than 100 years old, and in many instances less than 10 years old. Results of the analysis showed that a single particle-tracking analysis simulating advective transport can be used to evaluate ground-water vulnerability for any part of a ground-wate

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Use of a ground-water flow model with particle tracking to evaluate ground-water vulnerability, Clark County, Washington
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
vii, 71 p. :ill. (some col.), maps (some col.) ;28 cm.