Mapping Groundwater in an Alpine Drainage with Airborne Electromagnetic Methods and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
Abstract:The rivers that supply water to most of the West rise in the Rocky Mountains. As drought increases across the country, understanding the hydrology of these alpine regions becomes important to assuring water supplies in the future. Near surface geophysics can help in this effort. In this study, resistivity data from an airborne electromagnetic survey in the Snowy Range was analyzed to map groundwater distribution. The EM survey covered an area of approximately 60 km2 to a depth of around 150 m. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) point soundings provided ground truthing by testing whether water was present, at what depth, and how much. The survey area contained vertically dipping metasedimentary rocks, covered in places by unconsolidated glacial and fluvial deposits.
The resistivity data showed horizontal variation in water content much more clearly than vertical changes, which were best detected by NMR. To allow for comparisons across different lithologies and depths, resistivity measurements were first log transformed to produce a more normal distribution, then classed by depth and formation and assigned standardized scores using the mean and standard deviation for those classes. To determine the typical appearance of wet areas, points in the near surface were classed as wet or dry based on proximity to surface water. Logistic regression was used to determine the probability that points with a given standardized score were wet. Where a relationship existed between proximity to surface water and conductivity, this information was translated into a map of groundwater distribution at greater depths. NMR soundings provided quantitative measurements of water content, which were used as known points within these horizontal maps to determine the actual water levels being detected.