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The Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer system (GMBVAS) is a U.S. EPA–designated sole-source aquifer for most of the ~2.3 million residents of the Great Miami River basin. The aquifer system is similar to many of the glacial outwash–alluvial aquifers found throughout the southern Midwestern United States: a valley deeply incised into bedrock by meltwater from repeated glaciations, subsequently aggraded with glacial outwash, lake clays, tills, and post-glacial alluvium. These aquifers are often immediately adjacent to or below modern streams with which they are hydrologically connected. Because of the exchange of water between the aquifer and surface streams, they must be considered two parts of a single hydrogeologic system; anything impacting one part will impact the other.

Because virtually all water is recycled, public water suppliers, agricultural users, and industrial users withdraw water from the GMBVAS, then discharge the used water to the next downstream consumer. For example, agricultural runoff and municipal wastewater enter the Great Miami River. River water recharges the aquifer near well fields through induced infiltration. Municipalities, agriculture, and industry pump groundwater from the aquifer and discharge some of the water back into the river as a return flow. Sound water management requires balancing the needs of these diverse users. Agriculture, particularly in the upper Great Miami basin, is a major source of revenue and jobs but requires heavy application of nutrients and herbicides. Sand and gravel quarrying in the Great Miami basin is critical for construction and infrastructure but also removes vast amounts of aquifer material. Not only is healthy reliable groundwater important for the public water supply, it is also essential to bottling facilities, distilleries, pharmaceutical companies, and other water-dependent industries that have been attracted to the area.

This field trip explores the GMBVAS, its uses, its interaction with Great Miami River, and the contrasting needs of the people and businesses that depend on it.

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