Valley-fill aquifers in Pennsylvania are the source of drinking water for many wells in the glaciated parts of the State and along major river valleys. These aquifers area subject to contamination because of their shallow water-table depth and highly transmissive sediments. The possibility for contamination of water-supply wells in valley-fill aquifers can be minimized by excluding activities that could contaminate areas that contribute water to supply wells.
An area that contributes water to a well is identified in this report as either an area of diversion, time-of-travel area, or contributing area. The area of diversion is a projection to land surface of the valley-fill aquifer volume through which water is diverted to a well and the time-of travel area is that fraction of the area of diversion through which water moves to the well in a specified time. The contributing area, the largest of three areas, includes the area of diversion but also incorporates bedrock uplands and other area that contribute water.
Methods for delineating areas of diversion and contributing areas in valley-fill aquifers, described and compared in order of increasing complexity, include fixed radius, uniform flow, analytical, semianalytical, and numerical modeling. Delineated areas are considered approximations because the hydraulic properties and boundary conditions of the real ground-water system are simplified even in the most complex numerical methods.
Successful application of any of these methods depends on the investigator's understanding of the hydrologic system in and near the well field, and the limitations of the method. The hydrologic system includes not only the valley-fill aquifer but also the regional surface-water and ground-water flow systems within which the valley is situated. As shown by numerical flow simulations of a well field in the valley-fill aquifer along Marsh Creek Valley near Asaph, Pa., water from upland bedrock sources can provide nearly all the water contributed to the well.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Evaluation of methods for delineating areas that contribute water to wells completed in valley-fill aquifers in Pennsylvania