A prolonged drought in the High Plains of Nebraska prompted the use of groundwater for cooling at the largest coal-fired power plant in the State. Prior to the drought, groundwater was used primarily for irrigation and the power plant relied exclusively on surface water stored in a nearby reservoir for cooling. Seepage from the reservoir system during the past ∼75 a has resulted in the buildup of a large mound of water in the underlying unconfined aquifer. A well field was installed during the drought for the purpose of tapping the groundwater mound as a supplemental source of water for cooling. Concentrations of dissolved Cl− and SO42- indicate 65–100% of shallow groundwater and 0–100% of deep groundwater (saturated thickness ∼115 m) in the immediate vicinity of the reservoir was from seepage out of the reservoir system. Hydrogen and O isotopic data indicate most surface-water seepage occurred in the late spring and early summer when reservoir stage was at its highest level. Tritium/3He apparent groundwater ages imply horizontal flow velocities from the reservoir were on the order of 60–600 m/a. These diverse data provided information regarding the spatial distribution, timing, and rate of seepage from the reservoir that could not have been obtained from the available geologic, hydraulic head, and conductivity data. In particular, mixing fractions of surface water and regional groundwater in the aquifer could not have been determined using hydraulic information. Mixing fractions were of special interest in this study because of the management objective to maximize the capture of surface-water seepage in the cooling water wells. Groundwater-flow models developed as well-field management tools were calibrated using inverse modeling techniques and observations of groundwater age, surface-water flow, reservoir stage, and groundwater levels. The age data only accounted for 6 of the 2574 field observations used to calibrate the groundwater-flow models, yet they were among the most influential for refining estimates of hydraulic conductivity, recharge, and seepage from the reservoir. Results from this study demonstrate the benefits of using geochemical, isotopic, and age tracer data to develop conceptual and numerical models of groundwater flow for the purpose of water management.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Use of geochemical, isotopic, and age tracer data to develop models of groundwater flow for the purpose of water management, northern High Plains aquifer, USA|
|Contributing office(s)||California Water Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Platte River|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|