Hydrogeologic data from Regional Aquifer System Analyses (RASA) studies by the U.S. Geological Survey in the Great Lakes Basin, United States, during 1978-95, were compiled and used to estimate the total volume of water that is stored in the many aquifers of the basin. These studies focused on six regional aquifer systems: the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana; the Silurian- Devonian aquifers in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio; the surficial aquifer system (aquifers of alluvial and glacial origin) found throughout the Great Lakes Basin; and the Pennsylvanian sandstone and carbonate-rock aquifers and the Mississippian sandstone aquifer in Michigan. Except for the surficial aquifers, all of these aquifer systems are capable of yielding substantial quantities of water and are not small aquifers with only local importance. Individual surficial aquifers, although small in comparison to the bedrock aquifers, collectively represent large potential sources of ground water and therefore have been treated as a regional system.
Summation of ground-water volumes in the many regional aquifers of the basin indicates that about 1,340 cubic miles of water is in storage; of this, about 984 cubic miles is considered freshwater (that is, water with dissolved-solids concentration less than 1,000 mg/L). These volumes should not be interpreted as available in their entirety to meet water-supply needs; complete dewatering of any aquifer is environmentally undesirable. The amount of water that is considered available on the basis of water quality and environmental, economic, and legal constraints has not been determined. The effect of heavy pumping in the Chicago, Ill., and Milwaukee, Wis., areas, which has caused the regional ground-water divide in the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system to shift westward, has been included in the above estimates. This shift in the ground-water divide has increased the amount of water in storage in the deep-bedrock aquifers of the Great Lakes Basin by about 36 cubic miles; however, this water is removed by wells and, after use, is mostly discharged to the Mississippi River Basin rather than to the Great Lakes Basin. The corresponding decrease in ground-water storage that has resulted from lowering of the potentiometric surface due to this heavy pumping (0.059 cubic miles) is negligible compared to the total estimated storage.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Estimate of ground water in storage in the Great Lakes basin, United States, 2006