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Compilation and evaluation of data used to identify groundwater sources under the direct influence of surface water in Pennsylvania

May 9, 2022

A study was conducted to compile and evaluate data used to identify groundwater sources that are under the direct influence of surface water (GUDI) in Pennsylvania. In the early 1990s, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) implemented the Surface Water Identification Protocol (SWIP) for the identification of GUDI sources. Since the establishment of the SWIP, PADEP has classified more than 500 individual sources across Pennsylvania as GUDI, but Pennsylvania’s complex geology and physiography provide a challenge for a uniform method of GUDI determination. Components used in this study to compile and evaluate data associated with GUDI determination include: (1) a preliminary review of file information for 43 public water-supply wells, (2) quality control and addition of data to PADEP’s database for public water-supply systems to prepare data for analysis, and (3) exploratory evaluation of existing GUDI sources in the database with respect to hydrogeologic and source-construction characteristics that are currently utilized in the assessment methodology.

Case files for 43 wells from PADEP’s Northcentral and Southcentral regions were reviewed to: (1) provide a better understanding of how the SWIP was applied in practice, (2) verify and compile missing data, and (3) find additional attributes not previously available that might explain a well’s categorization as GUDI. Review of file information showed that the SWIP outlined in PADEP technical guidance was usually followed, but for some sources, the GUDI determination was more complex and could not be easily summarized.

Data compiled for study analyses provided by PADEP include source data derived from public water-supply system case files, a source-information database for public water-supply systems, and Microscopic Particulate Analysis (MPA) results and associated water-quality data for public water-supply system groundwater sources. Data from the Pennsylvania Drinking Water Information System (PADWIS), which is PADEP’s database for public water-supply systems, were also used for this study. The PADWIS database originally included data for 12,147 groundwater sources (11,812 groundwater sources not under the direct influence of surface water (non-GUDI) wells and 335 GUDI wells). A subset (4,018 wells consisting of 3,842 non-GUDI wells and 175 GUDI wells) of the PADWIS database was created for an analysis and includes only community wells evaluated in accordance with the SWIP. MPA results for 631 community and noncommunity wells were compiled, along with associated water-quality data (alkalinity, chloride, Escherichia coli, fecal coliform, nitrate, pH, sodium, specific conductance, sulfate, total coliform, total dissolved solids, total residue, and turbidity) populated from the PADEP Bureau of Laboratories Sample Information System. Data compiled from sources other than PADEP include spatial data, both naturogenic (for example, average precipitation or distance to closest hydrologic feature) and anthropogenic (for example, percentage of developed or agricultural land cover within a specific vicinity of a public water-supply system well) data representing spatially derived variables.

Comparison among wells in the PADWIS dataset subset using the nonparametric Kruskal-Wallis test showed that GUDI wells had significantly older median construction years, shallower depths, and static water levels closer to the land surface than non-GUDI wells and that carbonate aquifers had the highest percentages of wells designated as GUDI (12 percent; 57 wells). Further comparison of wells in the PADWIS database subset using the Spearman’s rho monotonic correlation test illustrated that public water-supply wells designated as GUDI largely occur in unconfined aquifers and have high average yield and shallow static water levels. Assessment of the MPA database subset using the Kruskal-Wallis test showed wells with MPA total risk-factor scores that exceeded zero had older median construction years and shallower casing depths than wells with MPA total risk-factor scores of zero and that carbonate aquifers had the highest percentages of wells with MPA total risk-factor scores exceeding zero (30 percent; 63 wells). Spearman’s rho correlations showed that wells completed in aquifers with depths to major water-bearing zones closer to the land-surface had higher total risk-factor scores resulting from MPA samples.

Based on the results of the analyses described in this report, broad conclusions can be drawn regarding site-specific well characteristics as well as anthropogenic and naturogenic factors that could be responsible for a well being designated as GUDI, but the accuracy of these results is dependent on the quality of the data being analyzed. Ultimately, study results serve as an added resource for initial desktop screening of wells to determine if additional site-specific investigation is warranted and underscore the need for field evaluation.

Publication Year 2022
Title Compilation and evaluation of data used to identify groundwater sources under the direct influence of surface water in Pennsylvania
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221023
Authors Eliza L. Gross, Matthew D. Conlon, Dennis W. Risser, Chad E. Reisch
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2022-1023
Index ID ofr20221023
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pennsylvania Water Science Center