Simulation of ground-water flow in an unconfined sand and gravel aquifer at Marathon, Cortland County, New York

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2000-4026

Prepared in cooperation with the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District



The Village of Marathon, in Cortland County, N.Y., has three municipal wells that tap a relatively thin (25 to 40 feet thick) and narrow (less than 0.25 mile wide) unconfined sand and gravel aquifer in the Tioughnioga River valley. Only one of the wells is in use because water from one well has been contaminated by petroleum chemicals from a leaking storage tank, and water from the other well contains high concentrations of manganese. The operating well pumps about 0.1 million gallons per day and supplies about 1,000 people.

A three-dimensional, finite-difference ground-water-flow model was used to (1) compute hydraulic heads in the aquifer under steady-state conditions, (2) develop a water budget, and (3) delineate the areas contributing recharge to two simulated wells that represent two of the municipal wells: one 57 feet east of the Tioughnioga River, the other 4,000 feet to the south and 75 feet from a man-made pond. The water budget for simulated long-term average, steady-state conditions with two simulated pumping wells indicates that the principal sources of recharge to the unconfined aquifer are unchanneled runoff and ground-water inflow from the uplands (41 percent of total recharge), precipitation that falls directly on the aquifer (34 percent), and stream leakage (23 percent). Only 2 percent of the recharge to the aquifer is from ground-water underflow into the northern end of the modeled area. Most of the simulated groundwater discharge from the modeled area (78 percent of total discharge) is to the Tioughnioga River; the rest discharges to the two simulated wells (19 percent) and as underflow at the southern end of the modeled area (3 percent).

Results of a particle-tracking analysis indicate that the aquifer contributing area of the northern (simulated) well is 0.10 mile wide and 0.15 mile long and encompasses 0.015 square miles; the contributing area of the southern (simulated) well is 0.20 mile wide and 0.11 mile long and encompasses 0.022 square miles. The average traveltime of ground water from the valley wall to either simulated well is about 1.5 years, calculated on the basis of an assumed aquifer porosity of 0.3. The flowpath analysis indicates that both contributing areas contain surface-water sources of recharge; the Tioughnioga River and Hunts Creek contribute water to the northern well, and a pond and a small tributary contribute water to the southern well.

Ground-water temperature in an observation well between the Tioughnioga River and the municipal well fluctuated several degrees Fahrenheit in response to pumping of the municipal well. This temperature fluctuation, in conjunction with the pumping well causing a ground-water gradient from the Tioughnioga River to the pumping well (ground-water levels in the pumping well were generally greater than 3 ft lower than that of the Tioughnioga River), indicate that there is a hydraulic connection between the river and aquifer at this site.

Suggested Citation

Miller, Todd S., 2000, Simulation of ground-water flow in an unconfined sand and gravel aquifer at Marathon, Cortland County, New York:U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 2000–4026, 24 p.,

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Geology
  • Simulation of Ground-Water Flow
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Simulation of ground-water flow in an unconfined sand and gravel aquifer at Marathon, Cortland County, New York
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
New York Water Science Center
iv, 24 p.
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