In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Town of Caroline and Tompkins County Planning Department, began a study of the valley-fill aquifer system in upper Sixmile Creek and headwaters of West Branch Owego Creek valleys in the Town of Caroline, NY. The purpose of the study is to provide geohydrologic data to county and town planners as they develop a strategy to manage and protect their water resources. The first aquifer reach investigated in this series is in the Town of Caroline and includes the upper Sixmile Creek valley and part of West Branch Owego Creek valley. The portions of the valley-fill aquifer system that are comprised of saturated coarse-grained sediments including medium to coarse sand and sandy gravel form the major aquifers. Confined sand and gravel units form the major aquifers in the western and central portions of the upper Sixmile Creek valley, and an unconfined sand and gravel unit forms the major aquifer in the eastern portion of the upper Sixmile Creek valley and in the headwaters of the West Branch Owego Creek valley.
The valley-fill deposits are thinnest near the edges of the valley where they pinch out along the till-mantled bedrock valley walls. The thickness of the valley fill in the deepest part of the valley, at the western end of the study area, is about 100 feet (ft); the thickness is greater than 165 ft on top of the Valley Heads Moraine in the central part of the valley.
An estimated 750 people live over and rely on groundwater from the valley-fill aquifers in upper Sixmile Creek and West Branch Owego Creek valleys. Most groundwater withdrawn from the valley-fill aquifers is pumped from wells with open-ended 6-inch diameter casings; the remaining withdrawals are from shallow dug wells or cisterns that collect groundwater that discharges to springs (especially in the Brooktondale area). The valley-fill aquifers are the sources of water for about 200 households, several apartment complexes, two mobile home parks, a school, and several farms and small businesses. Most groundwater that is withdrawn from pumped wells is returned to the groundwater system via septic systems.
Groundwater in the upper and basal confined aquifers in the upper Sixmile Creek valley is under artesian conditions everywhere except where the water discharges to springs along bluffs in the western end of the Sixmile Creek valley. Principal sources of recharge to the confined aquifers are (1) the sides of the valley where the confined aquifers may extend up along the flank of the bedrock valley wall and crop out at land surface or are overlain and in contact with surficial coarse-grained deltaic and fluvial sediments that provide a pathway through which direct precipitation and seepage losses from tributary streams can reach the buried aquifers, or (2) where the buried aquifers are isolated and receive recharge only from adjacent fine-grained sediment and bedrock.
The base-flow and runoff components of total streamflow at two streamgages, Sixmile Creek at Brooktondale and Sixmile Creek at Bethel Grove, were calculated using hydrograph-separation techniques from 2003 to 2007 discharge records. Base flow constituted 64 and 56 percent of the total annual flow at the Brooktondale and Bethel Grove streamgages, respectively.
Water-quality samples were collected from 2003 to 2005, with 10 surface-water samples collected seasonally during base-flow conditions at the Sixmile Creek at Brooktondale streamgage, and 12 samples were collected during base-flow conditions at several selected tributaries from 2004 to 2005. The predominant cation detected in the surface-water samples was calcium, but moderate amounts of magnesium, silica, and sodium were also detected; the major anions were bicarbonate, chloride, and sulfate. Sodium and chloride concentrations were relatively low in all samples but increased downstream from the Sixmile Creek sampling site at Six Hundred Road near Slaterville Springs, NY, to B
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USGS Numbered Series
Geohydrology and Water Quality of the Valley-Fill Aquifer System in the Upper Sixmile Creek and West Branch Owego Creek Valleys in the Town of Caroline, Tompkins County, New York