Observed ground-water-level declines from 1991 to 2003 in northern Monroe County, Michigan, are consistent with increased ground-water demands in the region. In 1991, the estimated ground-water use in the county was 20 million gallons per day, and 80 percent of this total was from quarry dewatering. In 2001, the estimated ground-water use in the county was 30 million gallons per day, and 75 percent of this total was from quarry dewatering.
Prior to approximately 1990, the ground-water demands were met by capturing natural discharge from the area and by inducing leakage through glacial deposits that cover the bedrock aquifer. Increased ground-water demand after 1990 led to declines in ground-water level as the system moves toward a new steady-state. Much of the available natural discharge from the bedrock aquifer had been captured by the 1991 conditions, and the response to additional withdrawals resulted in the observed widespread decline in water levels.
The causes of the observed declines were explored through the use of a regional ground-water-flow model. The model area includes portions of Lenawee, Monroe, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties in Michigan, and portions of Fulton, Henry, and Lucas Counties in Ohio. Factors, including lowered water-table elevations because of below average precipitation during the time period (1991 - 2001) and reduction in water supply to the bedrock aquifer because of land-use changes, were found to affect the regional system, but these factors did not explain the regional decline. Potential ground-water capture for the bedrock aquifer in Monroe County is limited by the low hydraulic conductivity of the overlying glacial deposits and shales and the presence of dense saline water within the bedrock as it dips into the Michigan Basin to the west and north of the county. Hydrogeologic features of the bedrock and the overlying glacial deposits were included in the model design. An important step of characterizing the bedrock aquifer was the determination of inputs and outputs of water-leakage from glacial deposits and flows across model boundaries. The imposed demands on the groundwater system create additional discharge from the bedrock aquifer, and this discharge is documented by records and estimates of water use including: residential and industrial use, irrigation, and quarry dewatering.
Hydrologic characterization of Monroe County and surrounding areas was used to determine the model boundaries and inputs within the ground-water model. MODFLOW-2000 was the computer model used to simulate ground-water flow. Predevelopment, 1991, and 2001 conditions were simulated with the model. The predevelopment model did not include modern water use and was compared to information from early settlement of the county. The 1991 steady-state model included modern demands on the ground-water system and was based on a significant amount of data collected for this and previous studies. The predevelopment and 1991 simulations were used to calibrate the numerical model. The simulation of 2001 conditions was based on recent data and explored the potential ground-water levels if the current conditions persist. Model results indicate that the ground-water level will stabilize in the county near current levels if the demands imposed during 2001 are held constant.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology and Simulation of Regional Ground-Water-Level Declines in Monroe County, Michigan