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Geohydrology and water quality of the stratified-drift aquifers in Upper Buttermilk Creek and Danby Creek Valleys, Town of Danby, Tompkins County, New York

Scientific Investigations Report 2015-5138

Prepared in cooperation with the Town of Danby and the Tompkins County Planning Department
By:
https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20155138

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Abstract

In 2006, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Town of Danby and the Tompkins County Planning Department, began a study of the stratified-drift aquifers in the upper Buttermilk Creek and Danby Creek valleys in the Town of Danby, Tompkins County, New York. In the northern part of the north-draining upper Buttermilk Creek valley, there is only one sand and gravel aquifer, a confined basal unit that overlies bedrock. In the southern part of upper Buttermilk Creek valley, there are as many as four sand and gravel aquifers, two are unconfined and two are confined. In the south-draining Danby Creek valley, there is an unconfined aquifer consisting of outwash and kame sand and gravel (deposited by glacial meltwaters during the late Pleistocene Epoch) and alluvial silt, sand, and gravel (deposited by streams during the Holocene Epoch). In addition, throughout the study area, there are several small local unconfined aquifers where large tributaries deposited alluvial fans in the valley.

The principal sources of recharge to the unconfined aquifers in the study area include direct infiltration of precipitation (rain and snowmelt) at land surface, unchanneled surface runoff from adjacent hillsides that seeps into the aquifer along the edges of the valley, groundwater inflow from adjacent till and bedrock that enters the aquifer along the sides of the valley, and seepage loss from upland-tributary streams where they flow over their alluvial fans in the valley. The percentages of all sources of recharge to the contiguous unconfined aquifer in Danby Creek valley include 16 percent from precipitation that falls directly over the aquifer, 55 percent from unchanneled surface runoff and groundwater inflow from hillsides, and 29 percent from losing tributary streams that cross the aquifer. The total annual recharge to the contiguous unconfined aquifer is 2.56 cubic feet per second (604 million gallons per year).

The principal sources of recharge to the confined aquifers include precipitation that falls directly on the surficial confining unit, which then slowly flows vertically downward through the fine-grained sediments and enters the confined aquifer, and groundwater inflow from till and bedrock that borders the aquifer along adjacent hillsides and at the bottom of the valley. In addition, there is substantial amounts of recharge to the confined aquifers where the confining units are locally absent (forming windows) and where parts of the confining units consist of sediments of low to moderate permeability (forming a semiconfining layer).

In the northern part of the study area (upper Buttermilk Creek valley), groundwater in the stratified-drift aquifers discharges to (1) domestic and commercial wells; (2) Buttermilk Creek in the area near the northern town border, and (3) and a small unnamed stream in a ravine in Buttermilk State Park just north of the town border. In the southern part of the study area (Danby Creek valley), groundwater discharges (1) to domestic, commercial, and farm wells; (2) to Danby Creek; (3) to a large wetland in the central parts of Danby Creek valley; and (4) as losses because of plant uptake and evaporation. About 300 people depend on groundwater from the upper Buttermilk Creek and Danby Creek stratified-drift aquifer system.

An unconfined surficial aquifer about 8,000 feet (ft) long and as much as 800 ft wide, with a saturated thickness of about 20 ft, occupies the lower (southeastern most) 8,000 ft of Danby Creek valley within the Town of Danby. However, because the aquifer is thin, the volume of water stored in the aquifer is small and the potential for induced recharge from Danby Creek during summer periods of low flow is also small, an array of wells would probably be needed to provide sustainable continuous amount of water to large water users such as municipalities and industries. Additional data and a groundwater flow model would be required to estimate sustainable withdrawal from the confined aquifers in upper Buttermilk Creek valley. Well data from water-well drillers through 2012 indicate that the confined aquifers in upper Buttermilk Creek valley are thin (typically about 10 feet thick) and the reported well-yield data suggest these aquifers may not be capable of supplying sufficient water to meet the needs of municipalities and industries. However, additional geohydrologic data leading to calibration of a groundwater flow model would be needed to properly evaluate the long-term (multiple years) potential yield of the confined aquifer system in upper Buttermilk Creek valley and of the unconfined aquifer in Danby Creek valley.

During 2007–10, groundwater samples were collected from 13 wells including 7 wells that are completed in the confined sand and gravel aquifers, 1 well that is completed in the unconfined aquifer, and 5 wells that are completed in the bedrock aquifers. Calcium dominates the cation composition and bicarbonate dominates the anion composition in most groundwater. Water quality in the study area generally meets state and Federal drinking-water standards but concentrations of some constituents exceeded the standards. The standards that were exceeded include sodium (3 samples), dissolved solids (1 sample), iron (3 samples), manganese (8 samples), and arsenic (1 sample).

Suggested Citation

Miller, T.S., 2015, Geohydrology and water quality of the stratified-drift aquifers in upper Buttermilk Creek and Danby Creek valleys, Town of Danby, Tompkins County, New York: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5138, 66 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20155138.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Geology
  • Water Quality
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1
  • Appendix 2

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Geohydrology and water quality of the stratified-drift aquifers in Upper Buttermilk Creek and Danby Creek Valleys, Town of Danby, Tompkins County, New York
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2015-5138
DOI:
10.3133/sir20155138
Year Published:
2015
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
New York Water Science Center
Description:
viii, 66 p.
Country:
United States
State:
New York
County:
Tompkins County
City:
Danby
Other Geospatial:
Danby Creek, Upper Buttermilk Creek
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N