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Hydrogeology and ground-water quality of glacial-drift aquifers, Leech Lake Indian Reservation, north-central Minnesota

Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4077

Prepared in cooperation with the Leech Lake Indian Reservation Business Committee
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Abstract

Among the duties of the water managers of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in north-central Minnesota are the development and protection of the water resources of the Reservation. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Leech Lake Indian Reservation Business Committee, conducted a three and one half-year study (1988-91) of the ground-water resources of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. The objectives of this study were to describe the availability and quality of ground water contained in glacial-drift aquifers underlying the Reservation.

Aquifers and confining units are present throughout the entire thickness of the glacial drift in the study area, which includes the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and adjacent parts of Beltrami, Hubbard, Itasca, and Cass Counties in north-central Minnesota, an area of approximately 2,145 square miles. An unconfined aquifer underlies most of the central and north-central parts of the study area. The saturated thickness of the aquifer ranges from 0 to about 105 feet. Horizontal hydraulic conductivity, estimated from 19 slug tests, ranges from 0.6 to 31 feet per day. The transmissivity of the aquifer ranges from 19 to more than 20,000 feet squared per day and is greatest in an area from west of Cass Lake to Lake Winnibigoshish. Theoretical maximum well yields range from less than 10 to about 2,000 gallons per minute. The unconfined and uppermost confined aquifers are physically and hydraulically separated by a fine-grained confining unit, consisting of till or lake deposits, that ranges in thickness from 3 to 254 feet.

The thickness of the uppermost confined aquifer ranges from 5 to about 53 feet. On the basis of specific-capacity data, the transmissivity of the aquifer ranges from less than 100 feet squared per day in the northeastern and southeastern parts of the study area to about 21,000 feet squared per day near Cass Lake. Theoretical maximum well yields range from less than 10 to about 2,600 gallons per minute.

Recharge to the ground-water system is predominantly from precipitation that infiltrates to the saturated zone. An analysis of four hydrographs for observation wells screened in the unconfined aquifer indicated spring recharge amounts during 1989 of 1-4 inches.

Discharge from the ground-water system occurs by leakage to streams, lakes, and wetlands, evapotranspiration, withdrawals by wells, and underflow to the southeast within the Mississippi River Valley. Streamflow measurements indicate that ground-water discharge to the Mississippi River is greater in the western part of the study area between Cass Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish than in the eastern part downstream from Lake Winnibigoshish.

The general regional direction of ground-water flow in the unconfined and uppermost confined aquifers is to the east and southeast. Ground-water flow is also toward the Mississippi River and the three large lakes in the study area, Lake Winnibigoshish and Cass and Leech Lakes.

Water moves through the ground-water system predominantly horizontally in the aquifers, whereas vertical components of flow are significant in confining units. Downward leakage of water occurs in highland areas where ground water flows downward from overlying till to the uppermost confined aquifer. Water moves vertically upward from deep to shallow aquifers in areas of regional discharge, the Mississippi River, Cass Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish. and Leech Lake.

Waters from both the unconfined and uppermost confined aquifers generally are suitable for domestic consumption, crop irrigation, and most other uses. Concentrations of iron and manganese in water from both aquifers frequently exceed levels that may impart an undesirable taste or odor to water.

Calcium and bicarbonate are the predominant ions in water from both the unconfined and uppermost confined aquifers. Water from both the unconfined and uppermost confined aquifers is hard to very hard, averaging 187 and 247 milligrams per liter as calcium carbonate, respectively.

Differences in the mean concentrations of constituents in waters from the unconfined and uppermost confined aquifers vary. The mean concentrations of chloride, manganese, dissolved organic carbon, sulfate, and dissolved iron were greater for water from the unconfined aquifer than for water from the uppermost confined aquifer. Conversely, the mean concentrations of calcium, potassium, silica, sodium, fluoride, and boron were greater for water from the uppermost confined aquifer than for water from the unconfined aquifer. These higher concentrations of naturally occurring constituents in waters from the uppermost confined aquifer may occur because of the longer flow paths and longer residence times of water in the uppermost confined aquifer as compared to the unconfined aquifer.

Nutrients include nitrogen and phosphorus species. The mean concentrations of dissolved nitrogen (NO2 + NO3, dissolved) and total phosphorus were about 5 and 1.5 times greater for water from the unconfined aquifer than for water from the uppermost confined aquifer, respectively. None of the water samples had concentrations of dissolved nitrogen greater than the maximum contaminant level established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (10 milligrams per liter) and only one water sample had a concentration greater than 3 milligrams per liter.

Water collected from wells completed in the unconfined aquifer in residential and recreational land-use areas had concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, and cyanide equal to or less than 6 micrograms per liter. Concentrations of organic-acid herbicides in water from three wells screened in the unconfined aquifer in managed-forest land-use areas were all below detection levels. Concentrations of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency priority pollutants in water from three wells screened in the unconfined aquifer and from one well screened in the uppermost confined aquifer were also all below detection levels.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Hydrogeology and ground-water quality of glacial-drift aquifers, Leech Lake Indian Reservation, north-central Minnesota
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
95-4077
Year Published:
1996
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Mounds View, MN
Contributing office(s):
Minnesota Water Science Center
Description:
viii, 78 p.
Country:
United States
State:
Minnesota
Other Geospatial:
Leech Lake Indian Reservation
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N