Assessing the Effect of Pleistocene Glaciation on the Water Supply of Eastern Wisconsin

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7/1/2009 - 6/30/2010

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  • Timothy Grundl, UW-Milwaukee

Along the entire eastern portion of Wisconsin the primary municipal water supply aquifer is the confined Paleozoic sandstone aquifer. From a water supply/water planning perspective, it is important to know whether or not freshwater pumped from this aquifer is being replenished by modern recharge or whether it represents a finite resource emplaced during the Pleistocene. Any Pleistocene recharge would have been controlled by highly variable factors involving ice advance and retreat as well as permafrost formation and ice-induced pressure heads that likely drove recharge at rates that were much higher than at present. The proposed work will improve the understanding of how Pleistocene glaciation influenced groundwater in the deep sandstone aquifer of eastern Wisconsin and will build on the work of Klump, et al. (2008). We will measure ionic composition (for basic geochemical modeling using PHREEQC); D and 18O (for Pleistocene temperature record); 34Ssulfate (for determination of sulfate source); 3H, δ13C, 14C (age of water); noble gas content and fractionation patterns (recharge sources and an independent measure of the Pleistocene temperature) in the groundwater of the confined sandstone aquifer along east-west transects between the latitudes of Green Bay, WI (44.5˚ N) and Milwaukee, WI (43˚ N). Each transect will consist of approximately ten wells completed solely within the Paleozoic aquifer starting in the recharge area and continuing downgradient along the flow path. Primary users of the information developed during this project will include water supply managers responsible for making long term water management decisions. In addition, the scientific community will be interested in the paleoclimatic information inherent to the noble gas temperature record and its deviation from the 18O record. Information on subglacial meltwater recharge is also of critical importance to the understanding of glacial movement in general and the occurrence of periodic glacial surges.

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