The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collected data and simulated groundwater flow to increase understanding of the hydrology and the effects of drainage alterations to the water table in the vicinity of Long Lake, near Gary, Indiana. East Long Lake and West Long Lake (collectively known as Long Lake) make up one of the largest interdunal lakes within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The National Park Service is tasked with preservation and restoration of wetlands in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore along the southern shoreline of Lake Michigan. Urban development and engineering have modified drainage and caused changes in the distribution of open water, streams and ditches, and groundwater abundance and flow paths. A better understanding of the effects these modifications have on the hydrologic system in the area will help the National Park Service, the Gary Sanitary District (GSD), and local stakeholders manage and protect the resources within the study area.
This study used hydrologic data and steady-state groundwater simulations to estimate directions of groundwater flow and the effects of various engineering controls and climatic conditions on the hydrology near Long Lake. Periods of relatively high and low groundwater levels were examined and simulated by using MODFLOW and companion software. Simulated hydrologic modifications examined the effects of (1) removing the beaver dams in US-12 ditch, (2) discontinuing seepage of water from the filtration pond east of East Long Lake, (3) discontinuing discharge from US-12 ditch to the GSD sewer system, (4) decreasing discharge from US-12 ditch to the GSD sewer system, (5) connecting East Long Lake and West Long Lake, (6) deepening County Line Road ditch, and (7) raising and lowering the water level of Lake Michigan.
Results from collected hydrologic data indicate that East Long Lake functioned as an area of groundwater recharge during October 2002 and a “flow-through” lake during March 2011, with the groundwater divide south of US-12. Wetlands to the south of West Long Lake act as points of recharge to the surficial aquifer in both dry- and wet-weather conditions.
Among the noteworthy results from a dry-weather groundwater flow model simulation are (1) US-12 ditch does not receive water from East Long Lake or West Long Lake, (2) the filtration pond at the east end of East Long Lake, when active, contributed approximately 10 percent of the total water entering East Long Lake, and (3) County Line Road ditch has little effect on simulated water level.
Among the noteworthy results from a wet-weather groundwater flow simulation are (1) US-12 ditch does not receive water from East Long Lake or West Long Lake, (2) when the seepage from the filtration pond to the surficial aquifer is not active, sources of inflow to East Long Lake are restricted to only precipitation (46 percent of total) and inflow from the surficial aquifer (54 percent of total), and (3) County Line Road ditch bisects the groundwater divide and creates two water-table mounds south of US-12.
The results from a series of model scenarios simulating certain engineering controls and changes in Lake Michigan levels include the following: (1) The simulated removal of beaver dams in US-12 ditch during a wet-weather simulation increased discharge from the ditch to the Gary Sanitary system by 13 percent. (2) Discontinuation of seepage from the filtration pond east of East Long Lake decreased discharge from US-12 ditch to the Gary Sanitary system by 2.3 percent. (3) Simulated discontinuation of discharge from the US-12 ditch to the GSD sewer system increased the area where the water table was estimated to be above the land surface beyond the inundated area in the initial wet-weather simulation. (4) Simulated modifications to the control structure at the discharge point of US-12 ditch to the GSD sewer system can decrease discharge by as much as 61 percent while increasing the simulated inundated area during dry weather and decrease discharge as much as 6 percent while increasing the simulated inundated area during wet weather. (5) Deepening of County Line Road ditch can decrease the discharge from US-12 ditch by 26 percent during dry weather and 24 percent during wet weather, as well as decrease the extent of flooded areas south and east of the filtration pond near Ogden Dunes. (7) The increase of the Lake Michigan water level to match the historical maximum can increase the discharge from US-12 ditch by 14 percent during dry weather and by 9.6 percent during wet weather. (8) The decrease of the Lake Michigan water level to match the historical minimum can decrease the discharge from US-12 ditch by 7.4 percent during dry weather and by 3.1 percent during wet weather.
The results of this study can be used by water-resource managers to understand how surrounding ditches affect water levels in East and West Long Lake and in the surrounding wetlands and residential areas. The groundwater model developed in this study can be applied in the future to answer questions about how alterations to the drainage system in the area will affect water levels in East and West Long Lake and surrounding areas. The modeling methods developed in this study provide a template for other studies of groundwater flow and groundwater/surface-water interactions within the shallow surficial aquifer in northern Indiana, and in similar hydrologic settings that include surficial sand aquifers in coastal settings.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrologic data and groundwater flow simulations in the vicinity of Long Lake, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, near Gary, Indiana