The impact of ground water pumping on nearby streams is often estimated using analytic models of the interconnected stream-aquifer system. A common assumption of these models is that the pumped aquifer is underlain by an impermeable formation. A new semianalytic solution for drawdown and stream depletion has been developed that does not require this assumption. This solution shows that pumping-induced flow (leakage) through an underlying aquitard can be an important recharge mechanism in many stream-aquifer systems. The relative importance of this source of recharge increases with the distance between the pumping well and the stream. The distance at which leakage becomes the primary component of the pumping-induced recharge depends on the specific properties of the aquifer, aquitard, and streambed. Even when the aquitard is orders of magnitude less transmissive than the aquifer, leakage can be an important recharge mechanism because of the large surface area over which it occurs. Failure to consider aquitard leakage can lead to large overestimations of both the drawdown produced by pumping and the contribution of stream depletion to the pumping-induced recharge. The ramifications for water resources management and water rights adjudication can be significant. A hypothetical example helps illustrate these points and demonstrates that more attention should be given to estimating the properties of aquitards underlying stream-aquifer systems. The solution presented here should serve as a relatively simple but versatile tool for practical assessments of pumping-induced stream-aquifer interactions. However, this solution should not be used for such assessments without site-specific data that indicate pumping has induced leakage through the aquitard. ?? 2006 National Ground Water Association.
Additional publication details
Pumping-induced drawdown and stream depletion in a leaky aquifer system