Groundwater Availability as Constrained by Hydrogeology and Environmental Flows

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Groundwater pumping from aquifers in hydraulic connection with nearby streams has the potential to cause adverse impacts by decreasing flows to levels below those necessary to maintain aquatic ecosystems. The recent passage of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water ResourcesCompact has brought attention to this issue in the Great Lakes region. In particular, the legislation requires the Great Lakes states to enact measures for limiting water withdrawals that can cause adverse ecosystem impacts. This study explores how both hydrogeologic and environmental flow limitations may constrain groundwater availability in the Great Lakes Basin. A methodology for calculating maximum allowable pumping rates is presented. Groundwater availability across the basin may be constrained by a combination of hydrogeologic yield and environmental flow limitations varying over both local and regional scales. The results are sensitive to factors such as pumping time, regional and local hydrogeology, streambed conductance, and streamflow depletion limits. Understanding how these restrictions constrain groundwater usage and which hydrogeologic characteristics and spatial variables have the most influence on potential streamflow depletions has important water resources policy and management implications. © 2013, National Ground Water Association.

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