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Dr.

Robert Sharp
Groundwater Recharge Case Study
Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer, Dayton, Ohio
December 1, 2015
I. Introduction
Aquifer Background
The city of Dayton, Ohio is underlain by the Great Miami
Buried Valley Aquifer (GMBVA). Dayton is located in Montgomery
County, shown in Figure 1. Existing below the Great Miami River, the
aquifer is one of the most extensive and one of the most productive
aquifer systems in North America, estimated to store about 1.5 trillion
gallons of water (City of Dayton, 2013). Pre-glacial streams cut
deeply into relatively impermeable bedrock during the Pleistocene
Epoch and created wide valleys that were partially filled by the glacial
deposition of said, gravel and till, which range in thickness from about
150 to 250 feet. In most regions, the GMBVA consists of two aquifers
both ranging in thickness from about 30 to 75 feet (Norris and Spieker, 1966). The upper aquifer
and lower aquifer are separated by a till-rich zone, which has low permeability, resulting in the
lower aquifer being confined under artesian pressure; this
confining layer ranges in thickness from about 10 to 50 feet
(Norris and Spieker, 1966). However, in some areas, the
confining layer is not present, resulting in the two aquifers
being hydraulically connected. This heterogeneous aquifer is
bordered by steep sloping, relatively impermeable bedrock, a
pictorial representation is displayed in Figure 2.
Aquifer Use
Presently, the groundwater is pumped from two main well fields having a combined 110
wells that have the capacity to pump between one and four million gallons of water a day to the
Miami and Ottawa Treatment Plants (City of Dayton, 2014). This aquifer serves as a resource
for about 1.6 million people in the Southwest Ohio area as well as industries in the Dayton area
(City of Dayton, 2013). The GMBVA was designated by the Environmental Protection Agency

(EPA) as a sole-source aquifer, which is an aquifer that is the sole


or principle source of drinking water for an area, supplying at
least fifty percent of the drinking water consumed in that area;
Daytons water system is one of the largest systems in the
country relying entirely on groundwater.
On Rohrers Island at the Mad River well field, the
primary location of the first pumping wells for the city of
Dayton, groundwater is pumped exclusively from the upper
aquifer, as it is only of the only location in which the upper
aquifer is thick enough to allow for the development of adequate
drawdown of high-capacity wells. As the water demand
increased from 1 mgd in 1880 to around 110 mgd in 1958, a
second well field, the Miami well field, was developed north of
Dayton in the 1960s (Norris and Spieker, 1966). Shown in Figure 3 are the locations of the well
fields relative to each other and the city of Dayton.
II. Artificial Recharge
Necessity of Artificial Recharge
As water demand grew in the 1920s, there began to be concern regarding maintaining
groundwater levels so that the water table on Rohrers Island did not drop significantly.
Naturally, water recharge to the upper aquifer occurs through the infiltration of rainwater.
Additionally, the pumping of the upper aquifer on Rohrers Island also initiates infiltration of
streamflow through the streambed. Recharge of the lower aquifer occurs by vertical leakage of
groundwater through the confining layer. Today, Dayton is Ohios sixth largest city, and a large
portion of the areas economy is industrial; therefore, the abundance of water is closely tied with
the citys economic success (Wallace, 2014).

Application of Artificial Recharge

Since this aquifer is of such importance to the city,


Dayton has made conscious efforts to protect this crucial
water source. The quantity of water available in the aquifer
for the city of Dayton to withdraw has been maintained
through efforts by the city since its beginnings as a densely
populated city in the 1920s. The Mad River diversion dam,
shown in Figure 4, was constructed during this time in order
to divert river flow into diversion channels; flow into the diversion channels is controlled by
several gates. Thus, the diversion channels allow for the river water to flow into dredged
recharge ditches and lagoons occupying 20 acres of the island where the river water infiltrates
and becomes groundwater. The
artificial ditches and lagoons, a few
displayed in Figure 5, are dredged
and packed with graded gravel to
induce higher infiltration rates and
then filled with river water that
percolates into the upper aquifer.
The recharge lagoons and ditches are drained and dredged about every six weeks in order to
remove muck and silt to sustain the high levels of infiltration (Norris and Spieker, 1966).
Studies Performed
This system has allowed for the water levels in the upper aquifer on Rohrers Island to
remain high enough to sustain the pumping of large capacity wells from the Mad River well
field. Moreover, the water table level has been maintained even in periods of drought. In 1943
the water level was measured in a well designated Well 2 from September 1st through October
10th, which also happened to be a period of drought. Despite the absence of rain, the water level
in Well 2 was raised 10.9 feet in that time period due to introduction of water from the Mad
River (Parker, 1943). Furthermore, even after an extreme drought had prevailed during that year,
the water level at Well 2 was 1.9 feet higher at the end of 1943 than at the end of 1942, a year in
which drought did not prevail (Parker, 1943).
On October 4, 1960, during a low flow period, discharge measurements were taken at
different points along the Mad and Miami Rivers. Through taking these measurements,

infiltration rates were able to be determined.


Table 1 shows the results of this study. The rate
of infiltration determined for the artificially
ponded areas was about 1.7 mgd per acre,
compared to a rate of about 0.07 mgd per acre in
the reaches of the Mad and Miami Rivers (Norris
and Spieker, 1966).
On average the water level on Rohrers Island is typically less than 30 feet below the
ground surface (Spieker, 1968). The maintenance of this water level is consistently sufficient for
the pumping that occurs in the Mad River well field.
III. Challenges
One of the greatest challenges of this recharge system has to do with water rights. The
amount of flow diverted from the river must not be so much that it would impact developments
that depend on the river water downstream. Additionally, the water quality of the river is of
concern. If water in the river has been contaminated, the water that is drawn into the infiltration
basins will also be contaminated, which would contaminate the groundwater supply. Therefore,
the wastewater treatment plants discharging into the river have stringent regulations in order to
ensure that drinking water contamination issues do not occur.
IV. Results and Discussion of Artificial Recharge
Results
The maintenance of an abundant supply of water has been made possible through the
recharge basins on Rohrers Island. As evidence by the study done in 1943 on water levels, the
water table in the Mad River well field is able to be maintained even in periods of extreme
drought. Furthermore, the artificially created infiltration basins allow for a significant amount of
additional infiltration to occur, which supports the pumping wells in that well field. The city of
Daytons water supply is dependent on artificial recharge.
Around 290 monitoring wells are strategically placed throughout the two well fields in
order to ensure the quantity and quality of Daytons water is sufficient (City of Dayton, 2013).
The city of Daytons source water protection program is award-winning; the American Water
Works Association (AWWA) has granted the city of Dayton the first National Exemplary

Wellhead Protection Award, and the Groundwater Foundation has designated the city a
Groundwater Guardian Community each year beginning in 1995 (City of Dayton, 2010).
Discussion
The use of recharge lagoons and ditches on Rohrers Island have clearly not only been
purposeful, but also successful. As evidence by the continued use of this system for around 90
years, the recharge basins are a maintainable recharge option in this area. While injection wells
have been considered in the past, they have not been necessary at this location. Considerations
regarding water temperature and chemistry have halted any initiatives regarding injection wells.
A main benefit of the use of the infiltration basins is that less energy is required than that
required to inject water into the aquifer.
Future of the Aquifer
Four common groundwater problems are identified as being variable availability of water
in place and time, local overdraft and declining groundwater levels resulting from increased
water use, groundwater contamination and water rights laws (Spieker, 1968). As climate change
effects and population increase, it is possible that these issues will become more of a concern for
Dayton. For instance, longer and more frequent periods of drought are likely, which has a
significant effect on water supply. In these cases, the need for different methods of recharge may
present itself.
V. Summary
The Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer is one of the largest and most extensive aquifer
systems in the United States. In Dayton, Ohio the productivity of the aquifer has been able to be
maintained by artificial recharge through diverting water from the Mad River to dredged
infiltration ditches and lagoons beginning in the 1920s. This recharge system has proved
effective through periods of drought, and has not allowed the water table in the upper aquifer to
significantly drop; in fact, in periods of drought the water table has the potential to be higher than
it is on average due to the diversion of flow from the river. While more extensive methods of
recharge may have to be explored in the future as climate change and population growth
becomes more prevalent, at the present time, the recharge lagoons and ditches have proven to be
incredibly successful and maintainable.
References

City of Dayton, 2010. http://www.waterdrs.com/water_reports/Centerville_Dayton%20OH


%20water%20report.pdf. City of Dayton Water Department.
City of Dayton, 2013. Application for AMWA Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance
June 2013. City of Dayton Water Department.
City of Dayton, 2014. City of Dayton Department of Water 2014 Water Quality Report.
http://www.daytonwater.org/uploads/documents/wst/2014/2014WaterQReportfile.pdf. City of
Dayton Water Department.
Norris, S. E., Spieker, A. M., 1966. Ground-Water Resources of the Dayton Area, Ohio:
Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1808, p. 2-105.
Parker, G. L., 1943. Surface Water Supply of the United States: Geological Survey Water-Supply
Paper 983, v. 13 p. 219-220.
Spieker, A. M., 1968. Future Development of the Ground-Water Resource in the Lower Great
Miami River Valley, Ohio Problems and Alternative Solutions: Geological Survey
Professional Paper 605 D.
Wallace, L., 2014. In Dayton, Ohio an economic comeback is in the water.
http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/dayton-ohio-economic-comeback-water-110520.
WBEZ91.5.