In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Tompkins County Planning Department and the Town of Dryden, New York, began a study of the stratified-drift aquifer system in the Virgil Creek and Dryden Lake Valleys in the Town of Dryden, Tompkins County. The study provided geohydrologic data needed by the town and county to develop a strategy to manage and protect their water resources. In this study area, three extensive confined sand and gravel aquifers (the upper, middle, and lower confined aquifers) compose the stratified-drift aquifer system. The Dryden Lake Valley is a glaciated valley oriented parallel to the direction of ice movement. Erosion by ice extensively widened and deepened the valley, truncated bedrock hillsides, and formed a nearly straight, U-shaped bedrock trough. The maximum thickness of the valley fill in the central part of the valley is about 400 feet (ft). The Virgil Creek Valley in the east part of the study area underwent less severe erosion by ice than the Dryden Lake Valley, and hence, it has a bedrock floor that is several hundred feet higher in altitude than that in the Dryden Lake Valley.
The sources and amounts of recharge were difficult to identify in most areas because the confined aquifers are overlain by confining units. However, in the vicinity of the Virgil Creek Dam, the upper confined aquifer crops out at land surface in the floodplain of a gorge eroded by Virgil Creek, and this is where the aquifer receives large amounts of recharge from precipitation that directly falls over the aquifer and from seepage losses from Virgil Creek. The results of streamflow measurements made in Virgil Creek where it flows through the gorge indicated that the stream lost 1.2 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) or 0.78 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) of water in the reach extending from 220 ft downstream from the dam to 1,200 ft upstream from the dam. In the southern part of the study area, large amounts of recharge also replenish the stratified-drift aquifers at the Valley Heads Moraine, which consists of heterogeneous sediments including coarse-grained outwash and kame sediments, as well as zones containing till with a fine-grained matrix. In the southern part of the study area, the confining units are thin and likely to be discontinuous in some places, resulting in windows of permeable sediment, which can more readily transmit recharge from precipitation and from tributaries that lose water as they flow over the valley floor. In contrast, in the northern part of the study area, the confining units are thick, continuous, and comprise homogeneous fine-grained sediments that more effectively confine the aquifers than in the southern part of the study area.
Most groundwater in the northern part of the study area discharges to the Village of Dryden municipal production wells, to the outlet to Dryden Lake, to Virgil Creek, and as groundwater underflow that exits the northern boundary of the study area. Most northward-flowing groundwater in the southern part of the study area discharges to Dryden Lake, to the inlet to Dryden Lake, and to homeowner, nonmunicipal community (a mobile home community and several apartments), and commercial wells. Most of this pumped water is returned to the groundwater system via septic systems. Most southward-flowing groundwater in the southern part of the study area discharges to the headwaters of Owego Creek and to agricultural wells; some flow also exits the southern boundary of the study area as groundwater underflow.
The largest user of groundwater in the study area is the Village of Dryden. Water use in the village has approximately tripled between the early 1970s when withdrawals ranged between 18 and 30 million gallons per year (Mgal/yr) and from 2000 through 2008 when withdrawals ranged between 75 and 85 Mgal/yr. The estimated groundwater use by homeowners, nonmunicipal communities, and small commercial facilities outside the area supplied by the Village of Dryden municipal wells is estimated to be about 18.4 Mgal/yr. Most of this pumped water is returned to the groundwater system via septic systems.
For this investigation, an aquifer test was conducted at the Village of Dryden production well TM 981 (finished in the middle confined aquifer at a well depth of 72 ft) at the Jay Street pumping station during June 19–21, 2007. The aquifer test consisted of pumping production well TM 981 at 104 gallons per minute over a 24-hour period. The drawdown in well TM 981 at the end of 24 hours of pumping was 19.2 ft. Results of the aquifer-test analysis for a partially penetrating well in a confined aquifer indicated that the transmissivity was 1,560 feet squared per day, and the horizontal hydraulic conductivity was 87 feet per day, based on a saturated thickness of 18 ft.
During 2003–5, 14 surface-water samples were collected at 8 sites, including Virgil Creek, Dryden Lake outlet, and several tributaries. During 2003 through 2009, eight groundwater samples were collected from eight wells, including three municipal production wells, two test wells, and three domestic wells. Calcium dominates the cation composition, and bicarbonate dominates the anion composition in most groundwater and surface-water samples. None of the common inorganic constituents collected exceeded any Federal or State water-quality standards.
Results from a three-dimensional, finite-difference groundwater-flow model were used to compute a water budget and to estimate the areal extent of the zone of groundwater contribution to the Village of Dryden municipal production wells. The model-computed water budget indicated that the sources of recharge to the confined aquifer system are precipitation that falls directly on the valley-fill sediments (40 percent of total recharge), stream leakage (35.5 percent), seepage from wetlands and ponds (12 percent), unchanneled runoff and groundwater inflow from the uplands (8.5 percent), and groundwater underflow into the eastern end of the model area (4 percent). Most groundwater discharges to surface-water bodies, including Dryden Lake (33 percent), streams (33 percent), and wetlands and ponds (10 percent of the total). In addition, some groundwater discharges as underflow out of the southern and northern ends of the model area (15 percent), to simulated pumping wells (4.5 percent), and to drains that represent seepage from the bluffs exposed in the gorge in the vicinity of the Virgil Creek Dam (4.5 percent).
The areal extents of the zones of groundwater contribution for Village of Dryden municipal production wells TM 202 (Lake Road pump station, finished in the upper confined aquifer) and TM 981 (Jay Street pump station, finished in the middle confined aquifer) are 0.5 square mile (mi2) and 0.9 mi2, respectively. The areal extent of the zone of contribution to production well TM 202 extends 2.2 miles (mi) southeast into the Virgil Creek Valley, whereas production well TM 981 extends 3.8 mi south in the Dryden Lake Valley. The areal extent of the zone of contribution to production well TM1046 (South Street pump station) is 1.4 mi2 and extends 2.4 mi into Dryden Lake Valley and 0.5 mi into Virgil Creek Valley.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geohydrology, water quality, and simulation of groundwater flow in the stratified-drift aquifer system in Virgil Creek and Dryden Lake Valleys, Town of Dryden, Tompkins County, New York