Water levels in the Calumet aquifer and their relation to surface-water levels in northern Lake County, Indiana, 1985-92

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4110

Indiana Department of Environmental Management



The U.S. Geological Survey made 2,328 water-level measurements at a total of 96 ground-water and surface-water sites in northern Lake County, Indiana, from August 1985 through September 1992. This report lists and summarizes the significance of the measurements. Northern Lake County is on the southern shore of Lake Michigan and includes the cities of East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, and Whiting. The study area is underlain by the unconfined Calumet aquifer and receives about 36 inches of precipitation per year.

The U.S. Geological Survey investigated ground-water levels and flow in the Calumet aquifer and the effect of Lake Michigan levels on ground-water and surface-water levels throughout the study area. Summary statistics of the water-level data were computed for each site.

Ground-water levels annually reach a maximum in June or July and a minimum in September or October. Measured groundwater fluctuations in the Calumet aquifer during the study period ranged from 0.40 to 5.01 feet, and the mean ground-water fluctuation was about 2.3 feet The largest surface-water fluctuations were affected by record setting Lake Michigan levels. Midmonth daily averages for the data-collection period show that Lake Michigan fluctuated 4.14 feet Water-level fluctuations on the Grand Calumet River were from 1.06 to 2.45 feet.

Analysis of water-level data indicates that the 1988 drought did not substantially affect water levels in the Calumet aquifer, but the deficit in precipitation reversed vertical flow gradients in ground water at three paired deep and shallow wells. High water levels in Lake Michigan during 1985-87 created long-term backwater effects on the Grand Calumet River as far as 11.0 miles upstream from Lake Michigan.

Analysis of water-level data from the data-collection network indicates that the water table normally slopes toward streams, ditches, sewers, the Indiana Harbor Canal, and Lake Michigan. The slope of the water table toward the Grand Calumet River is greatest in the winter and can decrease to being almost horizontal in the summer. Wells near streams respond quickly to nearby surface-water-level changes. Water-table maps indicate that sewers and dewatering systems are lowering ground-water levels in large areas. Ditches, the Grand Calumet River, and the Indiana Harbor Canal connect the Lake Michigan water level to large parts of the study area. The surface-water stage in the Indiana Harbor Canal, which functions as a ditch, can equal Lake Michigan's stage up to 3.75 miles inland from the lakeshore. Human activity, the stage of Lake Michigan, and the storage capacity of the Calumet aquifer combine to reduce vertical changes in the water table in the study area.

Study Area

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USGS Numbered Series
Water levels in the Calumet aquifer and their relation to surface-water levels in northern Lake County, Indiana, 1985-92
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
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Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Indianapolis, IN
Contributing office(s):
Indiana Water Science Center
v, 61 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.
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United States
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