Abstract

Development potential of groundwater resources under continuous production is calculated by numerical simulation for models of unit basins for the plains regions of Alberta, Canada, in order to analyze the relations between the location of water wells on the one hand, and well yield and basin stability, on the other. These relations are expressed in terms of two basin hydrologic parameters, namely the transitional basin yield (TBY) and the sustainable basin yield (SBY). TBY is the net cumulative inflow of water into the system, induced by and during development at a particular site, from an initial to a final steady-state condition. SBY, on the other hand, is the amount of water captured from precipitation due to production at a particular site under the newly established steady-state conditions. TBY is highest for well locations in the discharge area and decreases gradually as the sites are moved toward the recharge area. This is so because more of the naturally discharging, and thus otherwise lost, water is captured by wells located in discharge areas than by wells in recharge areas. On the other hand, SBY is greater if the wells are located in recharge areas than if they are in the discharge areas because an increasing percentage of precipitation is converted to infiltration by production wells as their locations are moved upslope in the basin. From a regional hydrological viewpoint, these are key relations in optimizing the development potential of the groundwater resources in extensive unconfined basins. Precipitation rate, simulated as maximum potential infiltration rate, is assumed to be constant over time. It is shown also that under conditions of restricted rainfall, a recharge-area development results in unstable basin-hydrological conditions sooner than when development takes place in the discharge area. Regional groundwater exploitation should, therefore, be initiated in discharge areas and moved towards recharge regions gradually, and only for compelling reasons. Factors such as precipitation rates and positions of aquifers within a basin affect TBY and SBY to various degrees, thereby influencing the optimal location of well sites in the basin.

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