Testing a community water supply well located near a stream for susceptibility to stream contamination and low-flows.
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
A community well is the primary water supply to the town of El Rito. This small rural town in is located in a semi-arid, mountainous portion of northern New Mexico where water is scarce. The well is 72 meters from a nearby intermittent stream. Initial tritium sampling suggests a groundwater connection between the stream and well. The community is concerned with the sustainability and future quality of the well water. If this well is as tightly connected to the stream as the tritium data suggests, then the well is potentially at risk due to upstream contamination and the impacts of extended drought. To examine this, we observed the well over a two-week period performing pump and recovery tests, electrical resistivity surveys, and physical observations of the nearby stream. We also collected general chemistry, stable isotope and radon samples from the well and stream. Despite the large well diameter, our pump test data exhibited behavior similar to a Theis curve, but the rate of drawdown decreased below the Theis curve late in the test. This decrease suggests that the aquifer is being recharged, possibly through delayed yield, upwelling of groundwater, or from the stream. The delayed yield hypothesis is supported by our electrical resistivity surveys, which shows very little change in the saturated zone over the course of the pump test, and by low values of pump-test estimated aquifer storativity. Observations of the nearby stream showed no change in stream-water level throughout the pump test. Together this data suggests that the interaction between the stream and the well is low, but recharge could be occurring through other mechanisms such as delayed yield. Additional pump tests of longer duration are required to determine the exact nature of the aquifer and its communication with the well.