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The importance of ground water in the Great Lakes Region

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2000-4008

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Abstract

Ground water is a major natural resource in the Great Lakes Region because it indirectly contributes more than 50 percent of the stream discharge to the Great Lakes. In addition, ground water is the source of drinking water for millions of people in the region, is an important source of supply for agriculture and many industries, and provides a relatively uniform supply of water in some ecologically sensitive areas to sustain plant and animal species. Therefore, to improve our understanding of water-resources issues in the Great Lakes Region, it is important to have a better understanding of the role that ground water plays in the overall hydrologic system of the lakes. The main ground-water resources issues in the Great Lakes Region are related to the amount of ground water, the interaction of ground water and surface water, changes in ground-water quality as development expands, and ecosystem health related to quantity and quality of water. Issues related to the amount of ground water Although the amount of water in the Great Lakes Region is vast, issues related to relatively small quantities of water are being raised more and more often. For example, even though the amount of ground water pumped in the region is small compared to the total amount of water present, ground water is an important source of public-water supply as well as an important source of supply for industrial, agricultural, and domestic needs. Less clearly understood, however, is the relation between the amount of streamflow discharging to the Great Lakes and the large portion of that flow that originates as ground water. The implications of this understanding for water- and land-use practices and, in turn, their effects on water quantity and quality, have not been fully incorporated into a policy framework. To help include information about the implications of the role that ground water plays in addressing regional water issues, a comprehensive analysis of indirect ground-water discharge to the Great Lakes is needed. Direct ground-water discharge to the Great Lakes is not a large factor in water-budget analyses for the Great Lakes. Locally, however, direct ground-water discharge to the Great Lakes may be important, even though the rates and places of discharge are not well known. A long-term evaluation of direct ground-water discharge to the Great Lakes would help place this hydrologic process in proper perspective. Near-shore areas with high rates of direct ground-water discharge may provide valuable habitat for aquatic organisms. Issues related to the interaction of ground water and surface water. Withdrawal of ground water removes that water from the watershed when it is consumptively used or when the return flow is discharged to another drainage basin. Under these circumstances, pumping ground water constitutes a diversion of Great Lakes water. Alternatively, ground-water withdrawal could have the opposite effect of diverting ground-water flow into the watershed by altering the ground-water divides. In particular, as withdrawals associated with urban expansion increase, more accurate data on the amount and effects of ground-water use need to be collected. Data on the amounts of ground water pumped both within the watershed and outside, but near the watershed boundaries needs to be collected and evaluated for potential diversion of water to or from the Great Lakes. It is currently thought that both irrigation and ground-water withdrawals near the watershed boundaries constitute relatively small amounts of water; however, both rapidly changing farming practices and rapidly expanding urban communities could alter these amounts in a relatively short timeframe, especially during drought periods. At present, the effects of ground-water withdrawals have been quantified in detail at only a few urban locations. In addition to quantifying the amount of water pumped out of aquifers, it is also important to improve our knowledge of the amount of water that is rec

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
The importance of ground water in the Great Lakes Region
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
2000-4008
Edition:
-
Year Published:
2000
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
Description:
iv, 14 p. :ill. (some col.), col. maps ;28 cm.