From the Watershed to the Global Ocean

The Illinois State Geological Survey organized and conducted a scientific session, "Groundwater Inputs to the Ocean, From the Watershed to the Global Ocean," at a recent scientific meeting sponsored by the American Geophysical Union, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, The Oceanography Society, and the Estuarine Research Federation. The meeting was held March 2-7, 2008, in Orlando, Florida. A main goal of the ISGS session was to build a consortium of scientists to discuss and prepare a research program to study groundwater and surface water interactions and the importance of groundwater to the Great Lakes Region. The pilot project of this program is titled, A Study of the Subsurface Water Role in the Water Resources of Lake Michigan: Ecological Policy, Assessment, and Prediction.

The pilot project will focus on the effects of natural climate changes, anthropogenic forcing, and their synergy with the ongoing contamination process in the Lake Michigan region and the role of subsurface water resources in water supply and water quality by:

  1. Compilation, generalization, and analysis of available hydrological and hydrogeological materials, including data from coastal bore holes and active water collections; analysis of the Lake Michigan water quality monitoring network data; and field exploration using submarine groundwater discharge methods, including water-borne geophysics and tracer techniques, bench tests, and control measurements.
  2. Quantitative assessment of regional groundwater inflow that includes specific factors (module of groundwater flow, groundwater runoff coefficient, coefficient of groundwater flow into lakes and rivers) in the Lake Michigan basin.
  3. Modeling the flow of groundwater into Lake Michigan and the quantitative assessment of groundwater's role in the Lake Michigan water balance and coastal zone balance.
  4. Elucidation of the main regularities and peculiarities of groundwater flow formation and distribution in different natural climatic, hydrological, hydrogeological, and anthropogenic conditions; assessment and prediction of groundwater spreading as the main part of its renewable resources under the conditions of developing contamination.
  5. Assessment of rational groundwater use perspectives with minimum adverse effect of groundwater intake on the Lake Michigan environment. All models will be tested in concrete sampling areas and carried out using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Upon completion of the project, the Lake Michigan Groundwater Information System (LMGWIS), the modeling tool, the Lake Michigan environment control criteria, and study recommendations to combat contamination will be available to politicians, water resource managers, and decision-makers for their application to the Lake Michigan regional water supply and water quality. Organizations such as the University of Illinois and the Illinois State Geological Survey will be used as platforms to distribute the information. In addition, thanks to this integrated conceptual approach, the mathematical tool is transportable to other Great Lakes regions undergoing similar problems in water supply and water quality. A demonstration version of the integrated tool will then be developed to give access to an interface in which socio-economic drivers and environmental pressures can be modified.