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Areas contributing recharge to priority wells in valley-fill aquifers in the Neversink River and Rondout Creek drainage basins, New York

May 2, 2022

In southeastern New York, the villages of Ellenville, Wurtsboro, Woodridge, the hamlet of Mountain Dale, and surrounding communities in the Neversink River and Rondout Creek drainage basins rely on wells that pump groundwater from valley-fill glacial aquifers for public water supply. Glacial aquifers are vulnerable to contamination because they are highly permeable and have a shallow depth to water table. To protect the quality of these water resources, water managers need accurate information about the areas that contribute recharge to production wells that pump from these aquifers. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health designated eight priority wells in this region for which water supply protection is of primary concern.

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health, began an investigation in 2019 with the general objectives of (1) improving understanding of regional groundwater-flow system, (2) delineating areas contributing recharge to eight priority production wells, and (3) quantifying the uncertainty of these contributing areas in a probabilistic way that can be used to inform decision-making related to priority well source-water protection. To complete these objectives, a MODFLOW 6 groundwater model was created encompassing the eight priority wells and the surrounding flow system, which includes parts of the Neversink River and Rondout Creek Basins in Sullivan County and Ulster County, New York. The model was built using Python tools (such as flopy, modflow-setup, and sfrmaker) that facilitate transparent and repeatable model development using existing datasets. The model parameters were estimated with a stepwise approach using an iterative ensemble smoother implementation of the Parameter ESTimation software PEST++ (version 5.0.0). We evaluated initial “best guess” parameter bounds with a prior Monte Carlo analysis. Results of the first prior Monte Carlo analysis were used to make informed adjustments to model parameter bounds (typically resulting in expanded bounds), and a second prior Monte Carlo analysis was run to identify improved ranges for model parameters during history matching.

The history matching effort produced an ensemble of parameter values for the groundwater-flow model that spans the range of values within prior uncertainty bounds. The ensemble is informed by the historical observation data, within a reasonable range of uncertainty on those observations. This history-matched ensemble was used in a particle tracking Monte Carlo analysis to delineate the areas contributing recharge to priority wells. The groundwater-flow and particle tracking (MODPATH7) models were run once for each ensemble member. Deterministic contributing areas computed for each ensemble member were aggregated to produce maps showing the probability that a location contributes recharge to priority wells. Finally, the particle tracking Monte Carlo analysis was repeated for six pumping scenarios, representing a wide range of possible pumping levels, to incorporate uncertainty in future pumping rates related to population growth or other management decisions. Increasing pumping rates generally led to larger contributing recharge areas and larger areas of high probability that a location contributes recharge to priority wells. These maps show the overall uncertainty of the areas contributing recharge to priority wells in the study area and provide a tool for risk-based decision making for protection of well source water.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Areas contributing recharge to priority wells in valley-fill aquifers in the Neversink River and Rondout Creek drainage basins, New York
DOI 10.3133/sir20215112
Authors Nicholas Corson-Dosch, Michael N. Fienen, Jason S. Finkelstein, Andrew T. Leaf, Jeremy T. White, Joshua C. Woda, John H. Williams
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2021-5112
Index ID sir20215112
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New York Water Science Center