Hydrogeology and water quality of the stratified-drift aquifer in the Pony Hollow Creek Valley, Tompkins County, New York

Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5059
Prepared in cooperation with the Tompkins County Department of Planning
By: , and 



The lithology, areal extent, and the water-table configuration in stratified-drift aquifers in the northern part of the Pony Hollow Creek valley in the Town of Newfield, New York, were mapped as part of an ongoing aquifer mapping program in Tompkins County. Surficial geologic and soil maps, well and test-boring records, light detection and ranging (lidar) data, water-level measurements, and passive-seismic surveys were used to map the aquifer geometry, construct geologic sections, and determine the depth to bedrock at selected locations throughout the valley. Additionally, water-quality samples were collected from selected streams and wells to characterize the quality of surface and groundwater in the study area.

Sedimentary bedrock underlies the study area and is overlain by unstratified drift (till), stratified drift (glaciolacustrine and glaciofluvial deposits), and recent post glacial alluvium. The major type of unconsolidated, water-yielding material in the study area is stratified drift, which consists of glaciofluvial sand and gravel, and is present in sufficient amounts in most places to form an extensive unconfined aquifer throughout the study area, which is the source of water for most residents, farms, and businesses in the valleys.

A map of the water table in the unconfined aquifer was constructed by using (1) measurements made between the mid-1960s through 2010, (2) control on the altitudes of perennial streams at 10-foot contour intervals from lidar data collected by Tompkins County, and (3) water surfaces of ponds and wetlands that are hydraulically connected to the unconfined aquifer. Water-table contours indicate that the direction of groundwater flow within the stratified-drift aquifer is predominantly from the valley walls toward the streams and ponds in the central part of the valley where groundwater then flows southwestward (down valley) toward the confluence with the Cayuta Creek valley. Locally, the direction of groundwater flow is radially away from groundwater mounds that have formed beneath upland tributaries that lose water where they flow on alluvial fans on the margins of the valley. In some places, groundwater that would normally flow toward streams is intercepted by pumping wells.

Surface-water samples were collected in 2001 at four sites including Carter, Pony Hollow (two sites), and Chafee Creeks, and from six wells throughout the aquifer. Calcium dominates the cation composition and bicarbonate dominates the anion composition in groundwater and surface-water samples and none of the common inorganic constituents collected exceeded any Federal or State water-quality standards. Groundwater samples were collected from six wells all completed in the unconfined sand and gravel aquifer. Concentrations of calcium and magnesium dominated the ionic composition of the groundwater in all wells sampled. Nitrate, orthophosphate, and trace metals were detected in all groundwater samples, but none were more than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or New York State Department of Health regulatory limits.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Hydrogeology and water quality of the stratified-drift aquifer in the Pony Hollow Creek Valley, Tompkins County, New York
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2014-5059
DOI 10.3133/sir20145059
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) New York Water Science Center
Description v, 23 p.
Country United States
State New York
County Tompkins County
Other Geospatial Pony Hollow Creek Valley
Scale 250000
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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