Numerical simulation of ground-water flow in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, and into nearby pools of the Mississippi River

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2003-4154
Prepared in cooperation with La Crosse County, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey
By: , and 



This report describes a two-dimensional regional screening model and two associated three-dimensional ground-water flow models that were developed to simulate the ground-water flow systems in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, and Pool 8 of the Mississippi River. Although the geographic extents of the three-dimensional models were slightly different, both were derived from the same geologic interpretation and regional screening model, and their calibrations were performed concurrently. The objectives of the La Crosse County (LCC) model were to assess the effects of recent (1990s) and potential future ground-water withdrawals and to provide a tool suitable to evaluate the effects of proposed water-management programs. The Pool 8 model objectives were to quantify the magnitude and distribution of ground-water flow into the Pool. The Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey developed the models cooperatively. The report describes: 1) the conceptual hydrogeologic model; 2) the methods used in simulating flow; 3) model calibration and sensitivity analysis; and 4) model results, such as simulation of predevelopment conditions and location and magnitude of ground-water discharge into Pool 8 of the Mississippi.

Three aquifer units underlie the model area: 1) a shallow unconsolidated sand and gravel aquifer; 2) an upper bedrock aquifer, composed of Cambrian and Ordovician sandstone and dolomite; and 3) a lower bedrock aquifer composed of Cambrian sandstone of the Eau Claire Formation and the Mount Simon Formation. A shale layer that is part of the Eau Claire Formation forms a confining unit separating the upper and lower bedrock aquifers. This confining unit is absent in the Black River and parts of the La Crosse and Mississippi River valleys. Precambrian crystalline basement rock forms the lower base of the ground-water flow system.

The U.S. Geological Survey ground-water flow model code, MODFLOW, was used to develop the La Crosse County (LCC) and Pool 8 ground-water flow models. Boundary conditions for the MODFLOW model were extracted from an analytic element screening model of the regional flow system surrounding La Crosse County. Model input was obtained from previously published and unpublished geologic and hydrologic data. Pumpages from municipal and high-capacity wells were also simulated.

Model calibration included a comparison of modeled and field-measured water levels and field-measured base flows to simulated stream flows. At calibration, most measured water levels compared favorably to model-calculated water levels. Simulated streamflows at two targets were within 3 percent of estimated measured base flows. Mass balance results from the LCC and Pool 8 models indicated that 63 to 74 percent of ground water was from recharge and 19 to 26 percent was from surface-water sources. Ground-water flow out of the model was to rivers and streams (85 to 87 percent) and pumping wells (11 and 13 percent).

The model demonstrates the effects of development on ground water in the study area. The maximum simulated water-level decline in the city of La Crosse metropolitan area is 9.3 feet. Simulated stream losses are similar to the amount of ground water pumped by wells. This indicates that ground water withdrawn by La Crosse County wells is water that under predevelopment conditions discharged to streams and lakes.

The models provide estimates of the locations and amount of ground-water flow into Pool 8 and the southern portion of Pool 7 of the Mississippi River. Ground-water discharges into all areas of the pools, except along the eastern shore in the vicinity of the city of La Crosse and immediately downgradient from lock and dam 7 and 8. Ground-water flow into the pools is generally greatest around the perimeter with decreasing amounts away from the perimeter. An area of relatively high ground-water discharge extends out towards the center of Pool 7 from the upper reaches of the pool and may

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Numerical simulation of ground-water flow in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, and into nearby pools of the Mississippi River
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 2003-4154
DOI 10.3133/wri034154
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Wisconsin Water Science Center
Description vi, 36 p.
Country United States
State Wisconsin
County La Crosse County
Other Geospatial Mississippi
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details