Provided in cooperation with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Simulation of Groundwater Mounding beneath Hypothetical Stormwater Infiltration Basins
Report Abstract (full)
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By Glen B. Carleton
Groundwater mounding occurs beneath stormwater management structures designed to infiltrate stormwater runoff. Concentrating recharge in a small area can cause groundwater mounding that affects the basements of nearby homes and other structures. Methods for quantitatively predicting the height and extent of groundwater mounding beneath and near stormwater infiltration structures can be used by property developers and regulatory agencies to assessthe threat to previously existing or proposed structures.
Finitedifference groundwaterflow simulations of infiltration from hypothetical stormwater infiltration structures (which are typically constructed as basins or dry wells) were done for 10acre and 1acre developments. Aquifer and stormwaterrunoff characteristics in the model were changed to determine which factors are most likely to have the greatest effect on simulating the maximum height and maximum extent of groundwater mounding. Aquifer characteristics that were changed include soil permeability, aquifer thickness, and specific yield. Stormwaterrunoff variables that were changed include magnitude of design storm, percentage of impervious area, infiltrationstructure depth (maximum depth of standing water), and infiltrationbasin shape. Values used for all variables are representative of typical physical conditions and stormwater management designs in New Jersey but do not include all possible values. Results are considered to be a representative, but not allinclusive, subset of likely results.
Maximum heights of simulated groundwater mounds beneath stormwater infiltration structures are the most sensitive to (show the greatest change with changes to) soil permeability. The maximum height of the groundwater mound is higher when values of soil permeability, aquifer thickness, or specific yield are decreased or when basin depth is increased or the basin shape is square (and values of other variables are held constant). Changing soil permeability, aquifer thickness, specific yield, infiltrationstructure depth, or infiltrationstructure shape does not change the volume of water infiltrated, it changes the shape or height of the groundwater mound resulting from the infiltration. An aquifer with a greater soil permeability or aquifer thickness has an increased ability to transmit water away from the source of infiltration than aquifers with lower soil permeability; therefore, the maximum height of the groundwater mound will be lower, and the areal extent of mounding will be larger.
The maximum height of groundwater mounding is higher when values of design storm magnitude or percentage of impervious cover (from which runoff is captured) are increased (and other variables are held constant) because the total volume of water to be infiltrated is larger. The larger the volume of infiltrated water the higher the head required to move that water away from the source of recharge if the physical characteristics of the aquifer are unchanged. The areal extent of groundwater mounding increases when soil permeability, aquifer thickness, designstorm magnitude, or percentage of impervious cover are increased (and values of other variables are held constant).
For 10acre sites, the maximum heights of the simulated groundwater mound range from 0.1 to 18.5 feet (ft). The median of the maximumheight distribution from 576 simulations is 1.8 ft. The maximum areal extent (measured from the edge of the infiltration basins) of groundwater mounding of 0.25ft ranges from 0 to 300 ft with a median of 51 ft for 576 simulations. Stormwater infiltration at a 1acre development was simulated, incorporating the assumption that the hypothetical infiltration structure would be a precast concrete dry well having side openings and an open bottom. The maximum heights of the simulated groundwatermounds range from 0.01 to 14.0 ft. The median of the maximumheight distribution from 432 simulations is 1.0 ft. The maximum areal extent of groundwater mounding of 0.25ft ranges from 0 to 100 ft with a median of 10 ft for 432 simulations.
Simulated height and extent of groundwater mounding associated with a hypothetical stormwater infiltration basin for 10acre and 1acre developments may be applicable to sites of different sizes. For example, for a 20acre site with 20 percent impervious surface, the stormwater infiltration basin design capacity (and associated groundwater mound) would be the same as for a 10acre site with 40 percent impervious surface.
A spreadsheet was developed to solve the Hantush analytical equation, which can be used to calculate groundwater mounding. The Hantush equation incorporates simplifying assumptions, including that all flow is horizontal. The spreadsheet accepts usersupplied values for horizontal soil permeability, initial saturated aquifer thickness, specific yield, basin length, basin width, and duration and magnitude of recharge rate. Comparison of results of finitedifference simulations of a multilayer system that includes a vertical component of flow in the saturated zone with the results from the analytical equation indicates that the horizontalflowonly assumption in the analytical equation can cause an underprediction of the maximum height of a groundwater mound by as much as 15 percent. The more realistic representation of the vertical component of flow and the ability to include sitespecific details make finitedifference models such as MODFLOW potentially more accurate than analytical equations for predicting groundwater mounding.
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