Groundwater withdrawals have caused saltwater to encroach into freshwater-bearing aquifers beneath Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Groundwater investigations in the 1960s identified a freshwater-saltwater interface located at the Baton Rouge Fault, across which abrupt changes in water levels occur. Aquifers south of the fault generally contain saltwater, and aquifers north of the fault contain freshwater, though limited saltwater encroachment has been detected within 7 of the 10 aquifers north of the fault. The 10 aquifers beneath the Baton Rouge area, which includes East and West Baton Rouge Parishes, Pointe Coupee Parish, and East and West Feliciana Parishes, provided about 167 million gallons per day (Mgal/day) for public supply and industrial use in 2010. Groundwater withdrawals from an aquifer that is 2,000-feet (ft) deep in East Baton Rouge Parish (the “2,000-foot” sand of the Baton Rouge area) have caused water-level drawdown up to 356 ft and induced saltwater movement northward across the fault. Groundwater withdrawals from the “2,000-foot” sand averaged 23.9 Mgal/d during 2010. Saltwater encroachment threatens wells that are located about 3 miles north of the fault, where industrial withdrawals account for about 66 percent of the water withdrawn from the “2,000-foot” sand in East Baton Rouge Parish. Constant and variable-density groundwater models were developed with the MODFLOW and SEAWAT groundwater modeling codes to evaluate strategies to control saltwater migration, including changes in the distribution of groundwater withdrawals and installation of “scavenger” wells to intercept saltwater before it reaches existing production wells.
Five hypothetical scenarios simulated the effects of different groundwater withdrawal options on groundwater levels within the “1,500-foot” sand and the “2,000-foot” sand and the transport of saltwater within the “2,000-foot” sand. Scenario 1 is considered a base case for comparison to the other four scenarios and simulates continuation of 2007 reported groundwater withdrawals. Scenario 2 simulates discontinuation of withdrawals from seven selected industrial wells located in the northwest corner of East Baton Rouge Parish, and water levels within the “1,500-foot” sand were predicted to be about 15 to 20 ft higher under this withdrawal scenario than under scenario 1. Scenario 3 simulates the effects of a scavenger well, which withdraws water from the base of the “2,000-foot” sand at a rate of 2 Mgal/d, at two possible locations on water levels and concentrations within the “2,000-foot” sand. In comparison to the concentrations simulated in scenario 1, operation of the scavenger well in the locations specified in scenario 3 reduces the chloride concentrations at all existing chloride-observation well locations. Scenario 4 simulates a 3.6 Mgal/d reduction in total groundwater withdrawals from selected wells screened in the “2,000-foot” sand that are located in the Baton Rouge industrial district. For scenario 4, the median and mean plume concentrations are slightly lower than scenario 1. Scenario 5 simulates the effect of total cessation of groundwater withdrawals from the “2,000-foot” sand in the industrial district. The simulated chloride-concentration distribution in scenario 5 reflects the change in groundwater flow direction. Although some saltwater would continue to cross the Baton Rouge Fault and encroach toward municipal supply wells, further encroachment toward the industrial district would be abated.