Kwajalein Island is the largest of the many low, sandy islets that form Kwajalein Atoll in the western North Pacific Ocean. Salinity and water-level surveys at exploratory monitoring wells in 1990 and 1991 delineated a freshwater lens nearly 40 feet thick floating on saltwater within the carbonate sand and gravel aquifer. A transition zone of mixture between the freshwater and saltwater is as thick as 90 feet. Maximum water-table height is only 1.5 feet above sea level. The freshwater lens thinned and thickened by 5 feet during the year-long field study in response to seasonal rainfall and pumping. Freshwater is produced by airstrip rain catchments and shallow, horizontal wells up to 1,400 feet long. Catchment and ground-water yields are roughly equal on average, but catchment is the principal source during the wet season, whereas the dry season requires sustained pumping. The salinity of pumped water has remained below drinking-water standards since wells were installed in 1971, except during the drought of 1983-84, the most severe drought in the rainfall record dating back to 1945. Wet-season rains at the end of the drought reduced salinity to low levels in just a few months. The operating history of the combined catchment/well water supply indicates that it is capable of producing at least 300,000 gallons per day in all but the driest years, and more in wet years. Several sites are contaminated by fuels, solvents, or metals, but most are at the periphery of the freshwater flow system where contaminants are carried toward the shore. However, three interior sites have greater potential to contaminate nearby water-supply wells.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water resources and contamination at Kwajalein Island, Republic of the Marshall Islands, 1990-91