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Abstract

A detailed geologic framework model was utilized for groundwater analysis using a fully three-dimensional variably saturated flow model. The geologic framework model, which was developed by a team of glacial geologists from federal and state geological surveys, was fully three-dimensional and did not contain the usual (unrealistic) assumption of widespread aquifer layers separated by leaky aquitard layers of equal extent. The goal of the analysis was to explore the implications of the new generation of geologic framework models for regional groundwater flow, and particularly, groundwater–surface water interactions. A transient numerical simulation, using infiltration at the ground surface as a boundary condition, revealed rich flow complexity, including: (1) widespread, yet patchy, recharge areas with rates that vary through several orders of magnitude, with the recharge rates being statistically correlated to hydraulic conductivity of the vadose zone sediments, elevation, and ground surface slope; (2) the predominance of local flow systems, resulting in an abundance of seepage zones along the sides of the incised (postglacial) stream valleys, and other manifestations of the high water table and strong groundwater–surface water interaction, such as kettle lakes and wetlands; and (3) existence of partially confined aquifers owing to partial burial of deltaic deposits by moraines and lake-bottom deposits having slow vertical permeability. Taken together, these findings support the need for, and value of, high-resolution geologic framework models and the potential fruitful outcome of strong collaboration between glacial geologists and groundwater modelers.

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