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Hydrogeology, karst, and groundwater availability of Monroe County, West Virginia

December 14, 2023

Monroe County is in southeastern West Virginia, encompassing an area of 474 square miles. The area consists of karst and siliciclastic aquifers of Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, and Mississippian age and is in parts of two physiographic provinces: the Valley and Ridge Province to the east of Peters Mountain, and the Appalachian Plateau Province to the west of Peters Mountain. This study was developed in response to inquiries from the Monroe County Commission requesting assessment of the water resources of the county to better understand the quantity of the county’s groundwater resources, for both current [2023] and future demand, and to provide information to support protection and management of the county’s valuable groundwater resources.

Various products were developed for this study that provide knowledge with respect to water availability and contamination susceptibility of the karst aquifers within the county. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geologists conducted extensive geologic mapping in support of the project, producing (1) a countywide bedrock geologic map, (2) a countywide hydrogeologic map, and (3) a light detection and ranging (lidar)-derived countywide digital elevation model and associated sinkhole map. A significant part of this work was to map in detail the Greenbrier Group at the formation level, which prior to this study had only partially been completed. The report also includes (4) a description of the lithologic units identified as part of the geologic mapping process.

U.S. Geological Survey hydrologists completed several additional products for the hydrology part of the effort, including development of (1) a countywide potentiometric surface (water-table) map, (2) a countywide base-flow stream assessment, (3) countywide water-budget estimates, (4) well log surveys for 15 wells to better understand subsurface controls on groundwater flow within the study area, (5) two groundwater tracer tests to better refine the groundwater divide from the northern and southern parts of the karst aquifer in Monroe County; and finally, based on all available data collected for the study including the potentiometric surface map, geologic map, current [2023] and legacy fluorometric groundwater tracer tests, and base-flow stream assessments, (6) groundwater-basin delineations were reassessed for principal groundwater basins within the Greenbrier aquifer.

In Monroe County, four principal hydrogeologic settings produce large yields of water for residential, agricultural, and other uses. The most relied upon water-bearing zone with respect to current [2023] public water supply is from springs along Peters Mountain. These springs are derived from intervals of fractured sandstone and resultant alluvial deposits. Groundwater flows downslope through these permeable alluvial deposits and discharges at the contact with less permeable strata, such as the Reedsville Shale. The second most relied upon water-bearing zone in Monroe County is within the karstic Greenbrier Group aquifer, in which the basal Hillsdale Limestone overlies the less permeable Maccrady Shale. This geologic contact between the Hillsdale Limestone and Maccrady Shale is not only targeted as a source of water for agricultural supply but also is targeted as a source of water for residential supply. The third most relied upon water-bearing zone is composed of shallow perched aquifers within the Greenbrier Group. The discontinuous nature of these perched aquifers makes mapping their extent impossible, but they are related to permeable geologic strata, such as karstified limestones with solutionally enhanced permeability that overlies less permeable shale or chert bedrock. During geologic mapping of the county, several of these perched aquifers were documented in the Pickaway, Union, and Alderson Limestones. A fourth zone consists of springs from Ordovician carbonates at the base of Peters Mountain, which are influenced by sinking streams as well as upwelling along faults. In terms of water quantity, the most sustainable springs are those having deeper-sourced flows.

Public supplies are a principal source of water used for residential and commercial supply in the region, accounting for 0.49 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) of fresh-water withdrawals (0.14 Mgal/d of groundwater and 0.35 Mgal/d of surface water) for residential and commercial use and serving 6,645 individuals (49.2 percent of the population). An estimated 6,861 people, (50.8 percent of the population) primarily rely on private wells or other unregulated sources, such as springs, and withdraw 0.55 Mgal/d of groundwater for their residential use. Public water supply in the region is primarily (71.4 percent) derived from springs and augmented by stream withdrawals (backup sources mainly during low-flow periods), with the remaining portion (28.6 percent) derived from groundwater withdrawals from wells. For rural residents, however, 100 percent of their withdrawals are derived from groundwater (wells or springs).

Publication Year 2023
Title Hydrogeology, karst, and groundwater availability of Monroe County, West Virginia
DOI 10.3133/sir20235121
Authors Mark D. Kozar, Daniel H. Doctor, William K. Jones, Nathan Chien, Cheyenne E. Cox, Randall C. Orndorff, David J. Weary, Mitchell R. Weaver, Mitchell A. McAdoo, Mercer Parker
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2023-5121
Index ID sir20235121
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Virginia and West Virginia Water Science Center