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Hydrogeology and ground-water flow in the carbonate rocks of the Little Lehigh Creek basin, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

Water-Resources Investigations Report 90-4076

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Abstract

The Little Lehigh Creek basin is underlain mainly by a complex assemblage of highly-deformed Cambrian and Ordovician carbonate rocks. The Leithsville Formation, Allentown Dolomite, Beekmantown Group, and Jacksonburg Limestone act as a single hydrologic unit. Ground water moves through fractures and other secondary openings and generally is under water-table conditions. Median annual ground-water discharge (base flow) to Little Lehigh Creek near Allentown (station 01451500) during 1946-86 was 12.97 inches or 82 percent of streamflow. Average annual recharge for 1975-83 was 21.75 inches. Groundwater and surface-water divides do not coincide in the basin. Ground-water underflow from the Little Lehigh Creek basin to the Cedar Creek basin in 1987 was 4 inches per year. A double-mass curve analysis of the relation of cumulative precipitation at Allentown to the flow of Schantz Spring for 1956-84 showed that cessation of quarry pumping and development of ground water for public supply in the Schantz Spring basin did not affect the flow of Schantz Spring. Ground-water flow in the Little Lehigh Creek basin was simulated using a finite-difference, two-dimensional computer model. The geologic units in the modeled area were simulated as a single water-table aquifer. The 134-squaremile area of carbonate rocks between the Lehigh River and Sacony Creek was modeled to include the natural hydrologic boundaries of the ground-water-flow system. The ground-water-flow model was calibrated under steady-state conditions using 1975-83 average recharge, evapotranspiration, and pumping rates. Each geologic unit was assigned a different hydraulic conductivity. Initial aquifer hydraulic conductivity was estimated from specific-capacity data. The average (1975-83) water budget for the Little Lehigh Creek basin was simulated. The simulated base flow from the carbonate rocks of the Little Lehigh Creek basin above gaging station 01451500 is 11.85 inches per year. The simulated ground-water underflow from the Little Lehigh Creek basin to the Cedar Creek basin is 4.04 inches per year. For steady-state calibration, the root-mean-squared difference between observed and simulated heads was 21.19 feet. The effects of increased ground-water development on base flow and underflow out of the Little Lehigh Creek basin for average and drought conditions were simulated by locating a hypothetical well field in different parts of the basin. Steady-state simulations were used to represent equilibrium conditions, which would be the maximum expected long-term effect. Increased ground-water development was simulated as hypothetical well fields pumping at the rate of 15, 25, and 45 million gallons per day in addition to existing ground-water withdrawals. Four hypothetical well fields were located near and away from Little Lehigh Creek in upstream and downstream areas. The effects of pumping a well field in different parts of the Little Lehigh Creek basin were compared. Pumping a well field located near the headwaters of Little Lehigh Creek and away from the stream would have greatest effect on inducing underflow from the Sacony Greek basin and the least effect on reducing base flow and underflow to the Ceda^r Creek basin. Pumping a well field located near the headwaters of Little Leh|igh Creek near the stream would have less impact on inducing underflow from|the Sacony Creek basin and a greater impact on reducing the base flow of Little Lehigh Creek because more of the pumpage would come from diverted base flow. Pumping a well field located in the downstream area of the Little Lehigh Creek basin away from the stream would have the greatest effect on the underflow to the Cedar Creek basin. Pumping a well field located in the downstream area of the Little Lehigh Creek basin near the stream would have the greatest effect on reducing the base flow of Little Lehigh Cteek. Model simulations show that groundwater withdrawals do not cause a proportional reduction in base flow. Under average conditions, ground-water withdrawals are equal to 48 to 70 percent of simulated base-flow reductions; under drought conditions, ground-water withdrawals are equal to 35 to 73 percent of simulated base-flow reductions. The hydraulic effects of pumping largely depend on well location. In the Little Lehigh basin, surface-water and ground-water divides do not coincide, and ground-water development, especially near surface-water divides, can cause ground-water divides to shift and induce ground-water underflow from adjacent basins. Large-scale ground-water pumping in a basin may not produce expected reductions of base flow in that basin because of shifts in the ground-water divide; however, such shifts can reduce base flow in adjacent surface-water basins. 

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Hydrogeology and ground-water flow in the carbonate rocks of the Little Lehigh Creek basin, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
90-4076
Year Published:
1991
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Pennsylvania Water Science Center
Description:
viii, 84 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm. [PGS 83 p.]