Ground-water supplies of the Ypsilanti area, Michigan

Water Supply Paper 1078

Prepared in cooperation with the Federal Works Agency and the Geological Survey Division, Michigan Department of Conservation
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As of the date of this report (August 1945), the major water users in the Ypsilanti area are: (1) the city of Ypsilanti, (2) the Willow Run bomber plant, built by the Federal Government and operated by the Ford Motor Co., and (3) the war housing project of the Federal Public Housing Authority, designated in this report the Willow Run Townsite. The city, bomber plant, and townsite have required large quantities of water for domestic and industrial uses, and the necessary water supplies have been developed from wells. The Federal Works Agency had the responsibility of deciding whether the existing water facilities were adequate to meet the expected demands and determining the character of any additional public water-supply facilities that might be constructed with Federal assistance. In order to appraise the ground-water resources of the area the Federal Works Agency requested the Geological Survey to investigate the adequacy of the existing supplies and the availability of additional water. The present report is the result of the investigation, which was made in cooperation with the Michigan Geological Survey Division.

The water supplies of the three major users are obtained from wells penetrating glacial and associated sands and gravels. Supplies for the city of Ypsilanti and the Willow Run bomber plant are obtained from wells in the valley of the Huron River; the supply for the Willow Run Townsite is obtained from wells penetrating glacial gravels underlying the upland northeast of the valley. The bedrock formations of the area either yield little water to wells or yield water that is too highly mineralized for most uses.

The water supply for the bomber plant is obtained from three closely spaced, highly productive wells at the northern edge of the Huron River, a little more than 3 miles southeast of Ypsilanti. The water receives complete treatment in a modern treatment plant. River water also can be treated and has been used occasionally in the winter and spring. The average daily pumpage during periods of maximum production at the bomber plant has been 4.5 to 4.75 million gallons. On June 30, 1945, production of bombers was suspended, and the plant went on a. maintenance basis.

The water supply of the bomber-plant well field is replenished by recharge from precipitation and from the Huron River. The evidence shows that recharge from the river is one of the principal sources of water and gives assurance both of the adequacy of the present supply and of the availability of additional water if needed. The safe yield of the three existing wells is estimated to be not less than 6 million gallons per day.

The Ypsilanti public water supply is obtained from three tubular wells drilled in 1943, which replaced a number of suction-pumped tubular wells and one large dug well. All the wells penetrate sand and gravel in the bend of the Huron River in the southeastern part of Ypsilanti. The water is treated in a modern treatment plant completed in 1939. The average daily pumpage in million gallons was about 1.68 in 1942, 1.70 in 1943, and 1.66 in 1944. Considerable water was furnished to the Willow Run bomber plant from the Ypsilanti public-supply system during the period from August 1941 through March 1943.

The available information indicates that the water pumped from the Ypsilanti well field is replenished by ground-water flow from adjacent stretches of the Huron Valley and from the upland areas outside the valley, from precipitation on the valley in the vicinity of the well field, and possibly from the Huron River. It is believed that sufficient water can be obtained from the well field to meet the expected demand for a considerable time. The safe yield of the present wells is estimated to be not less than 3 million gallons per day, and detailed pumping tests might show that still larger supplies could be safely developed.

The water supply of the Willow Run Townsite is obtained from four wells in two well fields about 2 miles apart, one well in the northwest or Prospect and Geddes Road field, and three wells in the southeast or Wiard Road field. The pumpage was originally expected to be 2 to 3 million gallons per day, but it averaged only about 450,000 gallons per day from March 1943 through June 1945.

The evidence afforded by logs of wells and by pumping tests indicates that the water-bearing gravels at the townsite are covered by relatively impermeable materials and thus that the rate of recharge is low. However, only relatively small declines in water level have occurred during more than 2 years' operation of the wells, indicating that recharge may occur nearby. The safe yield of the present wells is estimated to be 1.0 to 1.5 million gallons per day, and detailed pumping tests might show it to be somewhat greater. The water supply of the Willow Run Townsite has the smallest potential capacity of the three major ground-water supplies in the area; however, the demand has been relatively small, and no difficulty should arise unless this demand increases greatly.

 The investigation involved the drilling of 13 test wells to locate additional ground-water supplies, on the assumption that the wartime demand for water in the Ypsilanti area might increase beyond the capacity of the present sources. All 13 wells were drilled at sites selected by the Geological Survey. Two wells on the Willow Run Townsite were drilled by the Federal Public Housing Authority and 11 at other sites by the Federal Works Agency. Records of the wells are given in the report and discussed with respect to the availability of water at the different sites; similarly, the results of the controlled pumping tests made on four of the test wells drilled by the Federal Works Agency are analyzed and discussed with respect to the availability of additional water. The combined results of the test drilling and the pumping tests show that emergency supplies of several million gallons per day can be developed at the sites of the test wells. The best site shown by the test drilling is on the south bank of the Huron River opposite the bomber-plant well field, where a Well with a capacity of several thousand gallons per minute could be constructed if necessary. Three wells in the outwash-filled valley now occupied by Fleming Creek, on two of which pumping tests were made, show that emergency supplies ranging from a few hundred thousand to a million gallons per day could be developed at these test-well sites if necessary. Smaller Supplies ranging from a gallon or two per minute to perhaps 100,000 or 200,000 gallons per day could be developed at the sites of the remaining test Wells.

Pumping tests made on the supply wells of the three major water users by the consulting-engineering firms who designed the systems are analyzed and discussed briefly by the authors.

The report includes maps and graphs showing the surficial geology of the area, the location of wells, and fluctuations of water level in selected wells. Alsp included are tables giving data on water levels and pumpage, chemical analyses of representative ground waters, and records of wells.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water supplies of the Ypsilanti area, Michigan
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Michigan Water Science Center
Document: v, 105 p.; 5 Plates: 14.0 x 14.5 inches or smaller
United States