A ground-water flow model was used in conjunction with particle tracking to estimate zones of transport for six municipal well sites in Clark County, Washington. A zone of transport for a well is a three-dimensional volume within a ground-water system that contains all of the ground water that will discharge from that well within a specified time period. All of the zones of transport for a well compose the zone of contribution for the well. Zones of transport and contribution are important considerations in the delineation of wellhead-protection areas. Hydrogeologic factors, such as hydraulic conductivity and porosity, influence the shape and size of the zones of transport, and, therefore, uncertainty in these and other factors can lead to uncertainty in the delineation of the zones of transport. The sensitivity of the zones of transport to uncertainty in selected hydrogeologic factors was evaluated for the six wells. Estimates of the zones of transport were delineated by the U.S. Geological Survey program MODTOOLS from three-dimensional pathlines computed by the U.S. Geological Survey program MODPATH. Input to MODPATH came from steady-state simulations calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey modular three-dimensional finite-difference ground-water flow model, MODFLOW. Three-dimensional modeling is the best method for delineating zones of transport within stratigraphically complex, heterogeneous, anisotropic aquifers that have complex boundary conditions such as streams and multiple, simultaneously discharging wells.In this study, zones of transport were delineated by using simulated particle locations computed from the results of a three-dimensional steady-state regional model for 0-0.5, 0.5-1, 1-5, 5-10, 10-20, and 20-50 year travel times to the selected wells. Zones of transport for a well were delineated by tracking particles along pathlines in the reverse direction of ground-water flow.Sensitivity of the zones of transport to change in the discharge rate of the selected well, porosity, and hydraulic conductivity, as well as to the presence or absence of interfering wells, was evaluated at six well sites to evaluate the effect of uncertainties in these factors on the size and shape of zones of transport. Uncertainty in porosity contributed the most to the uncertainty in delineating the zones of transport. Uncertainty in other factors, such as well discharge rate and horizontal hydraulic conductivity, had measurable effects on the zones of transport, but errors introduced through these factors were less significant. Insight into the causes of the changes in the size and shape of the zones of transport to varying conditions was gained by evaluating the simulated water budget and ground-water levels in the vicinity of the well. Changes in the simulated water budget and ground-water levels provided information to better understand the effects of uncertainties in the data on simulation results.The results of this study suggest that ground-water velocity is the underlying control on the size of the zones of transport. The regional hydraulic gradient is the most significant factor controlling the shape and orientation of the zones of transport. Spatial variation in recharge, discharge, and hydraulic properties can also affect the shape of the zones of transport, however. Underestimation of porosity or overestimation of horizontal hydraulic conductivity leads to overestimation of ground-water velocity and overestimation of the size of zones of transport. Overestimation of porosity or underestimation of horizontal hydraulic conductivity leads to underestimation of ground-water velocity and underestimation of the size of zones of transport. Well discharge rate affects ground-water velocities near the well. Underestimation of discharge (and therefore velocities) will result in underestimation of the size of the zones of transport. The sensitivity of estimated zones of transport to uncertainty in parameters such as porosity and horiz
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Evaluation of factors that influence estimated zones of transport for six municipal wells in Clark County, Washington
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ;
Branch of Information Services [distributor],
iv, 65 p. :ill. (some col.), maps (some col.) ;28 cm.