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 Better model of water under extreme conditions could aid understanding of Earth's mantle
21.06.2018 | University of Chicago

nachricht The Janus head of the South Asian monsoon
21.06.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Better model of water under extreme conditions could aid understanding of Earth's mantle

21.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

What are the effects of coral reef marine protected areas?

21.06.2018 | Life Sciences

The Janus head of the South Asian monsoon

21.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>