With increasing demands for reliable water supplies and availability estimates, groundwater flow models often are developed to enhance understanding of surface-water and groundwater systems. Specific hydraulic variables must be known or calibrated for the groundwater-flow model to accurately simulate current or future conditions. Surface geophysical surveys, along with selected test-hole information, can provide an integrated framework for quantifying hydrogeologic conditions within a defined area. In 2004, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the North Platte Natural Resources District, performed a surface geophysical survey using a capacitively coupled resistivity technique to map the lithology within the top 8 meters of the near-surface for 110 kilometers of the Interstate and Tri-State Canals in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. Assuming that leakage between the surface-water and groundwater systems is affected primarily by the sediment directly underlying the canal bed, leakage potential was estimated from the simple vertical mean of inverse-model resistivity values for depth levels with geometrically increasing layer thickness with depth which resulted in mean-resistivity values biased towards the surface. This method generally produced reliable results, but an improved analysis method was needed to account for situations where confining units, composed of less permeable material, underlie units with greater permeability.
In this report, prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the North Platte Natural Resources District, the authors use geostatistical analysis to develop the minimum-unadjusted method to compute a relative leakage potential based on the minimum resistivity value in a vertical column of the resistivity model. The minimum-unadjusted method considers the effects of homogeneous confining units. The minimum-adjusted method also is developed to incorporate the effect of local lithologic heterogeneity on water transmission. Seven sites with differing geologic contexts were selected following review of the capacitively coupled resistivity data collected in 2004. A reevaluation of these sites using the mean, minimum-unadjusted, and minimum-adjusted methods was performed to compare the different approaches for estimating leakage potential.
Five of the seven sites contained underlying confining units, for which the minimum-unadjusted and minimum-adjusted methods accounted for the confining-unit effect. Estimates of overall leakage potential were lower for the minimum-unadjusted and minimum-adjusted methods than those estimated by the mean method. For most sites, the local heterogeneity adjustment procedure of the minimum-adjusted method resulted in slightly larger overall leakage-potential estimates. In contrast to the mean method, the two minimum-based methods allowed the least permeable areas to control the overall vertical permeability of the subsurface. The minimum-adjusted method refined leakage-potential estimation by additionally including local lithologic heterogeneity effects.