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Hydrogeology, ground-water quality, and source of ground water causing water-quality changes in the Davis well field at Memphis, Tennessee

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4212

Prepared in cooperation with the City of Memphis, Memphis Light, Gas, and Water Division, and the University of Memphis
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Abstract

An investigation was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey from 1992 to 1994 to collect and interpret hydrogeologic and water-quality data to determine the source of ground water causing water-quality changes in water from wells screened in the Memphis aquifer in the Davis well field at Memphis, Tennessee. Water-quality changes in aquifers used for water supply are of concern because these changes can indicate a potential for contamination of the aquifers by downward leakage from near-surface sources.

The water-quality changes at the Davis well field were detected by Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, which has periodically sampled and analyzed water from many of the 14 production wells since the well field began operation in 1971. Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division analyzed the water samples primarily for hardness, alkalinity, chloride, ulfate, and iron. Results of the e analy es and results of more recent (1992) analyse of water samples by the U.S. Geological Survey indicate that the quality of water from eight of the production wells has changed since the well field began operation. For example, from 1972 to 1991, hardness of water from one well has increased from 90 to 292 milligrams per liter (224 percent).

The confining unit, which separates the fluvial deposits aquifer from the Memphis aquifer in the area of the well field, is relatively thick and contains many clay layers. However, a test hole drilled for one of five shallow wells installed in the alluvial aquifer in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain just west of the well field indicated that the confining unit separating the alluvial aquifer from the Memphis aquifer locally is absent. Differences in hydrauLic head between the alluvial and fluvial deposits aquifers and the Memphis aquifer favor downward leakage of ground water. Thus, the absence of the confining unit beneath the Mississippi Alluvial Plain just west of the well field provides a direct pathway for water in the alluvial aquifer to enter the Memphis aquifer.

Comparison of selected water-quality properties and major inorganic and trace element constituent concentrations in samples from the alluvial, fluvial deposits, and Memphis aquifers indicates that the source of ground water causing waterquality changes at the Davis well field is the alluvial aquifer west of the well field . The presence of tritium and chlorofluorocarbons in water from wells screened in the Memphis aquifer in the western part of the well field indicates that relatively young (post-1940) water from the alluvial aquifer has entered the Memphis aquifer.

NETPATH geochemical model code was used to mix waters from the alluvial aquifer with water from the Memphis aquifer using chloride as a conservative tracer. The resulting models indicated that a mixture containing 3 percent alluvial aquifer water mixed with 97 percent unaffected Memphis aquifer water would produce the chloride concentration measured in water from the Memphis aquifer well most affected by water-quality changes. NETPATH also was used to calculate mixing percentages of alluvial and Memphis aquifer Abstract waters based on changes in the concentrations of selected dissolved major inorganic and trace element constituents that define the dominant reactions that occur during mixing. These models indicated that a mixture containing 18 percent alluvial aquifer water and 82 percent unaffected Memphis aquifer water would produce the major constituent and trace element concentrations measured in water from the Memphis aquifer well most affected by water-quality changes. However, these model simulations predicted higher dissolved methane concentrations than were measured in water samples from the Memphis aquifer wells.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Hydrogeology, ground-water quality, and source of ground water causing water-quality changes in the Davis well field at Memphis, Tennessee
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
94-4212
Year Published:
1995
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Memphis, TN
Description:
v, 58 p.
Country:
United States
State:
Tennessee
County:
Shelby County
City:
Memphis
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N