Assessment of Delineation Methods

ASSESSMENT OF METHODS FOR DELINEATION OF WELLHEAD PROTECTION AREAS IN THE STATE OF LOUISIANA

Existing Wellhead Protection Program

The Wellhead Protection Program Document for the State of Louisiana, March 1990, states that DEQ will use distance as the criteria for delineation of wellhead protection areas. This means that an arbitrary circle with a fixed radius of one (1) mile will be circumscribed around wellheads in confined aquifers, and a circle with a radius of two (2) miles will be circumscribed around wellheads in recharge areas or unconfined (water table) aquifers. Though simple and inexpensive, this method may tend to over-protect or under-protect, depending on the hydrogeology of the site. The large areas can also be cumbersome to inventory and manage. Because of this, a study was conducted to determine if the method of delineation could be changed.

Calculated Fixed Radius Method

Due to data constraints, the only "model" that could be tested was the Calculated Fixed Radius Method. The method applies an analytical equation (the volumetric flow equation) to calculate the radius of a circular WHPA based on a time-of-travel (TOT) criterion: Q t = nP H r2, where Q = pumping rate of the well, t = travel time to the well (TOT), n = aquifer porosity, H = screen length, and r = radius. The equation was programmed into a spreadsheet, and the required data were entered for several Louisiana cities.

Results. For a 10 year TOT, assuming a porosity of 20% for sand/gravel aquifers, most of the resulting radii were roughly half the size of the arbitrary radii. The results table appears in Appendix A. The size of the resultant wellhead protection area is much easier to manage, but the accuracy is questionable at best.

Discussion. The well data required for the Calculated Fixed Radius Method (listed above) are easily obtainable from water suppliers and/or the U.S.G.S. The problem lies in the determination of an appropriate time-of-travel (TOT).

In order to determine a proper TOT, one must have a good idea of what ground water velocities are statewide. Data in Louisiana are limited, and what is available shows a very wide variation statewide. Ground water velocities in Louisiana vary from less than three feet per year in deeper, confined aquifers to over 2,000 feet per year in terrace deposits. Furthermore, velocity is dependent on hydraulic gradient, which also shows substantial statewide variation (U.S.G.S., 1981) The table in Appendix B, taken from the Louisiana Recharge Potential Map document, 1989, shows that a wide variation in hydraulic conductivity occurs within each aquifer. The hydraulic conductivity value is also directly related to the ground water velocity.

The problem of accuracy is compounded by the extreme heterogeneity and anisotropy (variability affecting flow rate and direction) of Louisiana aquifers. The geology is such that these variations occur over small areas, where discontinuous units make predictability either very difficult or impossible (U.S.G.S., 1989).

Because of the varied nature of Louisiana's geology, use of a single specified TOT statewide may be a misrepresentation. In the case of the Terrace aquifers with a ground water velocity of 2,000 feet per year, using a specified 10 year TOT in the equation yields a WHPA that inactuality offers just over 4 years TOT to the well. In order to protect the wellhead for a true 10 years, the wellhead protection area radius would be about 20,000 feet! The opposite is true for the case where the velocity is less than 3 feet per year. The wellhead protection area delineated for such a low velocity may be large enough to protect for over a hundred years with a radius of about 4,000 feet.

Conclusion. The Calculated Fixed Radius method of Wellhead Protection Area delineation carries the same disadvantages as the Arbitrary Radius method when applied to Louisiana geology. Some areas may be "overprotected" with radii larger than necessary while others may be underprotected, depending on the geology. It appears that the only possible alternatives would be either to use different TOTs statewide, or to use a combination of Calculated Fixed Radius in areas where appropriate, and Arbitrary Radius in the remainder of areas. The problem is that site specific ground water velocity data are necessary to define a reasonable TOT, and the data may or may not exist.

Other Models

Because of the heterogeneous, anisotropic nature of Louisiana's geology, numerical models appear to be the best alternative to the arbitrary method. Numerical models provide the most general tool for the quantitative analysis of ground water applications, and they are not subject to many of the restrictive assumptions (i.e., homogeneous, isotropic aquifer) required for simple analytical solutions such as the RESSQC and MWCAP Modules of the EPA WHPA model. Finite-difference and finite-element methods are the major numerical techniques used in these models to solve ground water equations in their most general form. The "number crunching" is handled by the computer program.

A numerical model such as MODFLOW or SAFTMOD can be used in conjunction with the EPA WHPA model GPTRAC module to delineate wellhead protection areas. In most cases the areas will not be circular, but will be shaped according to the dominant direction of ground water flow. The numerical model is used to generate a hydraulic head field. This head field along with aquifer parameters are input to GPTRAC and the capture zone or wellhead protection area is delineated.

Data Requirements At this time, numerical modeling is not an alternative in Louisiana due to data constraints, though it is the only type of modeling appropriate for the geology. The data required for input are as follows:

  • Pumping Rate of the Well(s)
  • Location of the Well(s)
  • Water Level in the Well(s)
  • Static Water Level
  • Altitude of Land Surface
  • Depth of the Well(s)
  • Aquifer Transmissivity or Conductivity
  • Aquifer Porosity
  • Aquifer Thickness (Depth to Top & to Bottom)
  • Hydraulic Gradient
  • Specific Capacity

If the conductivity (or transmissivity) is not known, it can be calculated from the specific capacity. Only transmissivity (T) or hydraulic conductivity (K) is needed when the aquifer thickness (b) is known since T=Kb. Several values of either transmissivity or specific capacity are needed for the study area; approximately one measurement per square mile. The U.S.G.S. has a Ground Water Site Inventory for the State of Louisiana which includes public supply wells and observation wells. Some of the parameters are missing for a number of wells, and more current water level measurements are needed. Water levels should be taken more frequently, as these measurements can depict changes in drawdown and provide the hydraulic gradient data requirement listed above.

Aquifer thickness is another data requirement from the list above that can be a problem to obtain. Well logs are currently required by DOTD when new wells are drilled, but this information was not required in years past and therefore is not universally available for all wells. The well logs can be used to determine the aquifer thickness needed in the above list of data requirements.

Conclusion. Numerical modeling may provide the most accurate depiction of the wellhead protection area if all of the required data are available, as the zone of influence around the water supply well can be defined. The mathematical model must depict the aquifer conditions accurately throughout the wellhead protection area taking into account variation in permeability, porosity, and thickness. In addition to data compilation, the use of numerical modeling would likely require additional staff. These models are quite complex and require a considerable amount of time for each site. At the present time there is no reasonable alternative to the use of the arbitrary fixed radius for determining wellhead protection areas in Louisiana.

Other Considerations

All of the analytical and numerical methods discussed above are flow models. They are designed to predict the flowpaths of ground water and likewise any dissolved contaminants. They do not, however, take into account the behavior of non-dissolved phases of contaminants, such as LNAPLs and DNAPLs. Contaminant transport modeling would be necessary to attempt to predict their potential path of migration.


REFERENCES

Bair, E. Scott, Abraham E. Spinger, and George S. Roadcap. 1991. Delineation of Travel Time-Related Capture Areas of Wells Using Analytical Flow Models and Particle-Tracking Analysis. Ground Water. Vol. 29, No. 3. pp 387-397.

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. 1989. Recharge Potential of Louisiana Aquifers. Prepared by the Louisiana Geological Survey, 50p.

Mercer, James W. and Charles R. Faust. 1981. Ground Water Modeling. National Water Well Association, 60p.

Snider, J.L. and T.H. Sanford, Jr. 1981. Water Resources of the Terrace Aquifers, Central Louisiana. Water Resources Technical Report No. 25. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development, Office of Public Works. Baton Rouge, LA, in cooperation with the U.S.G.S.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1987. Guidelines for Delineation of Wellhead Protection Areas. Office of Ground Water Protection, Washington, D.C., EPA 440/6-87-010.

-----. 1988. Model Assessment for Delineating Wellhead Protection Areas. Office of Ground Water Protection, Washington, D.C., EPA 440/6-88-002.

U.S. Geological Survey. 1989. Geohydrology and Regional Ground Water Flow of the Coastal Lowlands Aquifer System in Parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida--A Preliminary Analysis. Water Resource Investigations Report 88-4100. Baton Rouge, LA.

Varljen, M.D. and J.M. Shafer. 1991. Assessment of Uncertainty in Time-Related Capture Zones Using Conditional Simulation of Hydraulic Conductivity. Ground Water. Vol. 29, No. 5. pp 737-748.


APPENDIX A

 

SUPPLY NAME

CITY

WELL #

DEPTH
(feet)

1st
OPENING
(feet)

SCREEN INTERV.
(feet)

YIELD
(gpm)

POROSITY

TOT (yr)

RADIUS
(feet)

Winnsboro W.S.

Winnsboro

FR-48

80

44

36

690

0.2

10

4629

Winnsboro W.S.

Winnsboro

FR-49

80

44

36

690

0.2

10

4629

Winnsboro W.S.

Winnsboro

FR-50

80

44

36

680

0.2

10

4595

Winnsboro W.S.

Winnsboro

FR-347

82

52

30

900

0.2

10

5791

Winnsboro W.S.

Winnsboro

FR-367

93

63

30

1300

0.2

10

6960

Winnsboro W.S.

Winnsboro

FR-368

79

49

30

880

0.2

10

5727

Rayville W.S.

Rayville

RI-15

80

40

40

600

0.2

10

4095

Rayville W.S.

Rayville

RI-48

115

75

40

2000

0.2

10

7477

Rayville W.S.

Rayville

RI-183

112

80

32

1200

0.2

10

6475

Peoples Water Service

Tallulah

MA-8048T

153

108

45

1000

0.2

10

4984

Peoples Water Service

Tallulah

MA-28

128

90

38

600

0.2

10

4202

Peoples Water Service

Tallulah

MA-31

130

90

40

1000

0.2

10

5287

Peoples Water Service

Tallulah

MA-206

130

90

40

1000

0.2

10

5287

WBR WD 1

Addis

WBR-126

189

149

40

439

0.2

10

3503

WBR WD 1

Addis

WBR-145

188

148

40

1016

0.2

10

5329

White Castle W.S.

White Castle

IB-196

250

182

68

500

0.2

10

2867

White Castle W.S.

White Castle

IB-223

227

187

40

500

0.2

10

3738

Clayton W.S.

Clayton

CO-32

136

106

30

165

0.2

10

2480

Clayton W.S.

Clayton

CO-33

136

106

30

165

0.2

10

2480

Plaucheville W.S.

Plaucheville

AV-482

128

93

35

375

0.2

10

3461

Plaucheville W.S.

Plaucheville

 

128

93

35

375

0.2

10

3461

 


Appendix B

Hydraulic Characteristics of the Aquifers in Louisiana

 

 

AQUIFER SYSTEM

RANGE OF THICKNESS OF FRESHWATER INTERVAL (feet)

RANGE OF WELL DEPTHS (feet)

TYPICAL WELL YIELDS (gal/min)

HYDRAULIC CONDUCTIVITY (feet/day)

SPECIFIC CAPACITY (gal/min/ft of drawdown)

ALLUVIAL

20 - 500

30 - 500

<500 - 4000

10 - 530

5 - 90

TERRACE of central and north Louisiana

20 - 150

40 - 150

40 - 400

150 - 270

1 - 50

CHICOT

50 - 1050

50 - 800

500 - 2500

40 - 220

2 - 35

SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA

50 - 600

<100 - 3300

100 - 2100

10 - 200

10 - 200

EVANGELINE

50 - 1900

200 - 2200

200 - 1000

20 - 180

2 - 38

MIOCENE of central Louisiana

50 - 1250

200 - 2200

50 - 1200

20 - 60

2 - 30

COCKFIELD

50 - 600

200 - 900

100 - 1800

25 - 100

1.5 - 75

SPARTA

50 - 700

200 - 900

100 - 1800

25 - 100

1.5 - 7.5

CARRIZO-WILCOX

50 - 850

100 - 600

30 - 300

2 - 40

0.5 - 4

From Recharge Potential of Louisiana Aquifers, prepared by the Louisiana Geological Society for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, 1989. 

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