Estimation of shallow ground-water recharge in the Great Lakes basin

Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5284
In cooperation with the National Water Research Institute, Environment Canada National Assessment of Water Availability and Use Program
By: , and 



This report presents the results of the first known integrated study of long-term average ground-water recharge to shallow aquifers (generally less than 100 feet deep) in the United States and Canada for the Great Lakes, upper St. Lawrence, and Ottawa River Basins. The approach used was consistent throughout the study area and allows direct comparison of recharge rates in disparate parts of the study area. Estimates of recharge are based on base-flow estimates for streams throughout the Great Lakes Basin and the assumption that base flow in a given stream is equal to the amount of shallow ground-water recharge to the surrounding watershed, minus losses to evapotranspiration. Base-flow estimates were developed throughout the study area using a single model based on an empirical relation between measured base-flow characteristics at streamflow-gaging stations and the surficial-geologic materials, which consist of bedrock, coarse-textured deposits, fine-textured deposits, till, and organic matter, in the surrounding surface-water watershed. Model calibration was performed using base-flow index (BFI) estimates for 959 stations in the U.S. and Canada using a combined 28,784 years of daily streamflow record determined using the hydrograph-separation software program PART.

Results are presented for watersheds represented by 8-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC, U.S.) and tertiary (Canada) watersheds. Recharge values were lowest (1.6-4.0 inches/year) in the eastern Lower Peninsula of Michigan; southwest of Green Bay, Wisconsin; in northwestern Ohio; and immediately south of the St. Lawrence River northeast of Lake Ontario. Recharge values were highest (12-16.8 inches/year) in snow shadow areas east and southeast of each Great Lake. Further studies of deep aquifer recharge and the temporal variability of recharge would be needed to gain a more complete understanding of ground-water recharge in the Great Lakes Basin.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Estimation of shallow ground-water recharge in the Great Lakes basin
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2005-5284
DOI 10.3133/sir20055284
Year Published 2006
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Michigan Water Science Center
Description vi, 20 p.
Country Canada, United States
Other Geospatial Great Lakes Basin
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