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Assessment of well yield, dominant fractures, and groundwater recharge in Wake County, North Carolina

April 25, 2022

A cooperative study led by the U.S. Geological Survey and Wake County Environmental Services was initiated to characterize the fractured-rock aquifer system and assess the sustainability of groundwater resources in and around Wake County. This report contributes to the development of a comprehensive groundwater budget for the study area, thereby helping to enable resource managers to make sound and sustainable water-supply and water-use decisions.

Construction information was used to analyze the well depth, casing depth, and reported well yield of more than 7,500 inventoried wells. The median well depth and casing depth were 265 feet (ft) below land surface (bls) and 68 ft bls, respectively, and the median well yield was 10 gallons per minute. Generally, well yield increased with depth to around 200 ft bls and then began to decrease with depth within the fractured-rock aquifer.

Borehole geophysical logging methods were used to characterize the fractured-rock aquifer by mapping the orientation of geologic structures within the subsurface. Structure measurements were made on resulting log data and mapped to observed general spatial trends within the regional groundwater system and more distinct hydrogeologic units. Many of the fractures observed within the borehole logs are steeply dipping across Wake County, although open fractures with shallow dip angles were also observed in most rock classes. Regional geologic structural trends were observed in proximity to the Jonesboro Fault.

Potential groundwater recharge in the study area was estimated using a Soil-Water-Balance (SWB) model, as well as using base flow hydrograph separation. The SWB model calculated net infiltration below the root zone for 1981 through 2019 for a 5,402-square-mile area that extends to the counties surrounding Wake County. The mean annual net infiltration rate for the 39-year period was about 8.6 inches per year for the study area. The mean annual net infiltration results from the SWB model were comparable to annual base flow estimates using the PART hydrograph-separation method at six U.S. Geological Survey streamgages within the study area. Mean annual base flow for all six drainage basins was near 7.5 inches per year and estimates ranged from 2.9 to 8.9 inches. Comparisons of mean annual potential recharge from the SWB model and base flow estimates were generally within 2 inches, except during high flows for most of the drainage basins in the study area.