Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New England's glacial upland soils provide major groundwater storage reservoir

12.04.2017

UMass Amherst hydrologist identifies glacial tills as critical storage element

A recent study of natural groundwater storage reservoirs in New England by hydrologist David Boutt at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that upland aquifer systems dominated by thin deposits of surface till - a jumbled, unsorted material deposited by glaciers - make up about 70 percent of the active and dynamic storage for the region.


At left, Seth Oliver with Leah Santangelo, right, both hydrogeology UMass Amherst graduates, taking water level measurements at a till site in Blandford, Mass., for a recent study of natural groundwater storage reservoirs in New England by hydrologist David Boutt at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For the first time, they quantified upland aquifer systems dominated by thin deposits of surface till -- a jumbled, unsorted material deposited by glaciers, which make up about 70 percent of the active and dynamic storage for the region.

Credit: UMass Amherst

As Boutt explains, "This is the first time that the relative role of upland vs. valley groundwater storage has been quantified. These results are the first to point to the outstanding importance of these thin glacial sediments in landscape-scale hydrologic budgets. This is really important for understanding how water gets into streams, supplying base flow in streams during summer months and droughts, and for recharging valley fill aquifers."

He adds that the "till reservoir" is traditionally neglected as an important groundwater storage reservoir because of its limited thickness and perceived low conductivity. But his new study highlights "the importance of a process-based understanding of how different landscape hydrogeologic units contribute to the overall hydrologic response of a region."

"Shallow tills of Massachusetts and New England are really important storage reservoirs of water for recharge to alluvial aquifers and for base flow to streams," he adds. This subsurface material fills and drains on a multi-annual basis and serves as the main mechanism to deliver water to valley fill aquifers and underlying bedrock aquifers. Details appear in the journal Hydrological Processes.

For this work, Boutt used 124 long-term groundwater wells distributed across the region to assess how annual local water flow properties and the hydrogeologic setting influence the aquifer system response to climate variability. The area is underlaid by low-storage, fractured metamorphic and crystalline bedrock and criss-crossed by valleys filled with glacial and post-glacial fill sediments. About 60 percent of the total area are uplands covered by thin glacial till, he notes.

The hydrologist points out that the monthly data in this study "contain rich signals of how the water table responds to climatic variability and the impact of hydrogeology on hydrological processes." He cautions, however, that many sites lack detailed geologic logs, local water table maps and detailed hydrogeologic characterization, all of which limit the study's ability to explore detailed questions about a specific site response except in general terms.

Boutt says that with changes in land use and climate, it is important to understand past change in the response of the hydrologic system to detect and predict future impacts.

Further, this analysis yields "important insights into the hydraulic connection of till/bedrock aquifer systems to the overall hydraulic response of the regional system." Even though total storage in upper till is "generally lower than that of the alluvial valley fill, it is clear that the annual active storage in the till is much greater," he adds.

This study "documents the importance of upland aquifer response and dynamic storage to climate variability over decadal time scales. Despite the thin nature of soils and sediments overlying bedrock systems, they play an outstanding role in storing and releasing water to headwater streams and downgradient aquifer systems." Boutt attributes the variability in response to the hydrogeologic setting of the aquifer and properties of the host material.

He concludes, "Trends in aquifer storage when averaged over the 124 wells in the study region show an upward positive trend indicating that the water table has risen over the last 40 years. When the trends are examined over the period of 1970-2010, they display a majority of upward trends despite a lack of upward trends in precipitation and streamflow on annual or seasonal basis. Increases in storage in the aquifers respond to overall increases in precipitation at the multi-annual decadal timescale distributed evenly across aquifer groupings."

###

This work was supported by the U.S. Geological Survey's National Institutes for Water Resources.

Media Contact

Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@umass.edu
413-545-0444

 @umassscience

http://www.umass.edu 

 

Janet Lathrop | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Water cooling for the Earth's crust
22.11.2017 | Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)

nachricht Retreating permafrost coasts threaten the fragile Arctic environment
22.11.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>