Analytical solutions and numerical models were used to predict the extent of steady-state drawdown caused by mining of aggregate below the water table in hypothetical sand-and-gravel and fractured crystalline-rock aquifers representative of hydrogeologic settings in the Front Range area of Colorado. Analytical solutions were used to predict the extent of drawdown under a wide range of hydrologic and mining conditions that assume aquifer homogeneity, isotropy, and infinite extent. Numerical ground-water flow models were used to estimate the extent of drawdown under conditions that consider heterogeneity, anisotropy, and hydrologic boundaries and to simulate complex or unusual conditions not readily simulated using analytical solutions. Analytical simulations indicated that the drawdown radius (or distance) of influence increased as horizontal hydraulic conductivity of the aquifer, mine penetration of the water table, and mine radius increased; radius of influence decreased as aquifer recharge increased. Sensitivity analysis of analytical simulations under intermediate conditions in sand-and-gravel and fractured crystalline-rock aquifers indicated that the drawdown radius of influence was most sensitive to mine penetration of the water table and least sensitive to mine radius. Radius of influence was equally sensitive to changes in horizontal hydraulic conductivity and recharge. Numerical simulations of pits in sand-and- gravel aquifers indicated that the area of influence in a vertically anisotropic sand-and-gravel aquifer of medium size was nearly identical to that in an isotropic aquifer of the same size. Simulated area of influence increased as aquifer size increased and aquifer boundaries were farther away from the pit, and simulated drawdown was greater near the pit when aquifer boundaries were close to the pit. Pits simulated as lined with slurry walls caused mounding to occur upgradient from the pits and drawdown to occur downgradient from the pits. Pits simulated as refilled with water and undergoing evaporative losses had little hydro- logic effect on the aquifer. Numerical sensitivity analyses for simulations of pits in sand-and-gravel aquifers indicated that simulated head was most sensitive to horizontal hydraulic conductivity and the hydraulic conductance of general-head boundaries in the models. Simulated head was less sensitive to riverbed conductance and recharge and relatively insensitive to vertical hydraulic conductivity. Numerical simulations of quarries in fractured crystalline-rock aquifers indicated that the area of influence in a horizontally anisotropic aquifer was elongated in the direction of higher horizontal hydraulic conductivity and shortened in the direction of lower horizontal hydraulic conductivity compared to area of influence in a homogeneous, isotropic aquifer. Area of influence was larger in an aquifer with ground-water flow in deep, low-permeability fractures than in a homogeneous, isotropic aquifer. Area of influence was larger for a quarry intersected by a hydraulically conductive fault zone and smaller for a quarry intersected by a low-conductivity fault zone. Numerical sensitivity analyses for simulations of quarries in fractured crystalline-rock aquifers indicated simulated head was most sensitive to variations in recharge and horizontal hydraulic conductivity, had little sensitivity to vertical hydraulic conductivity and drain cells used to simulate valleys, and was relatively insensitive to drain cells used to simulate the quarry.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Analytical and numerical simulation of the steady-state hydrologic effects of mining aggregate in hypothetical sand-and-gravel and fractured crystalline-rock aquifers
Water-Resources Investigations Report
vi, 56 p. : ill. (some col.), maps (some col.) ; 28 cm.