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Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5109

National Water Availability and Use Pilot Program

Regional Groundwater-Flow Model of the Lake Michigan Basin in Support of Great Lakes Basin Water Availability and Use Studies

By D.T. Feinstein, R.J. Hunt, and H.W. Reeves


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A regional groundwater-flow model of the Lake Michigan Basin and surrounding areas has been developed in support of the Great Lakes Basin Pilot project under the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Availability and Use Program. The transient 2-million-cell model incorporates multiple aquifers and pumping centers that create water-level drawdown that extends into deep saline waters. The 20-layer model simulates the exchange between a dense surface-water network and heterogeneous glacial deposits overlying stratified bedrock of the Wisconsin/Kankakee Arches and Michigan Basin in the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan; eastern Wisconsin; northern Indiana; and northeastern Illinois. The model is used to quantify changes in the groundwater system in response to pumping and variations in recharge from 1864 to 2005. Model results quantify the sources of water to major pumping centers, illustrate the dynamics of the groundwater system, and yield measures of water availability useful for water-resources management in the region.

This report is a complete description of the methods and datasets used to develop the regional model, the underlying conceptual model, and model inputs, including specified values of material properties and the assignment of external and internal boundary conditions. The report also documents the application of the SEAWAT-2000 program for variable-density flow; it details the approach, advanced methods, and results associated with calibration through nonlinear regression using the PEST program; presents the water-level, drawdown, and groundwater flows for various geographic subregions and aquifer systems; and provides analyses of the effects of pumping from shallow and deep wells on sources of water to wells, the migration of groundwater divides, and direct and indirect groundwater discharge to Lake Michigan. The report considers the role of unconfined conditions at the regional scale as well as the influence of salinity on groundwater flow. Lastly, it describes several categories of limitations and discusses ways of extending the regional model to address issues at the local scale.

Results of the simulations portray a regional groundwater-flow system that, over time, has largely maintained its natural predevelopment configuration but that locally has been strongly affected by well withdrawals. The quantity of rainfall in the Lake Michigan Basin and adjacent areas supports a dense surface-water network and recharge rates consistent with generally shallow water tables and predominantly shallow groundwater flow. At the regional scale, pumping has not caused major modifications of the shallow flow system, but it has resulted in decreases in base flow to streams and in direct discharge to Lake Michigan (about 2 percent of the groundwater discharged and about 0.5 cubic foot per second per mile of shoreline).

On the other hand, well withdrawals have caused major reversals in regional flow patterns around pumping centers in deep, confined aquifers—most noticeably in the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system on the west side of Lake Michigan near the cities of Green Bay and Milwaukee in eastern Wisconsin, and around Chicago in northeastern Illinois, as well as in some shallow bedrock aquifers (for example, in the Marshall aquifer near Lansing, Mich.). The reversals in flow have been accompanied by large drawdowns with consequent local decrease in storage. On the west side of Lake Michigan, groundwater withdrawals have caused appreciable migration of the deep groundwater divides. Before the advent of pumping, the deep Lake Michigan groundwater-basin boundaries extended west of the Lake Michigan surface-water basin boundary, in some places by tens of miles. Over time, the pumping centers have replaced Lake Michigan as the regional sink for the deep flow system.

The regional model is intended to support the framework pilot study of water availability and use for the Great Lakes Basin (Reeves, in press). To that end, the model is designed as a platform to

  • allow evaluation of broad sustainability indicators for the overall groundwater regime;

  • address the effects of future changes in water use and in climate on water availability; and

  • host embedded refined models needed to address water-supply and ecologic issues at the local scale.

The regional model is commensurate in size and scope with other groundwater-availability models recently or currently under development by the USGS in different parts of the country, and contributes to a national perspective on groundwater availability by providing information required for regional comparison and analysis.

Posted October 8, 2010

This report is available below in nine PDF files:

 • six 508 compliant
 • three not 508 compliant,
     for printing only.

For additional information contact:
Howard W. Reeves, Project Chief
USGS National Water Availability and Use –
  Great Lakes Pilot
6520 Mercantile Way, Suite 5
Lansing, MI 48911
Great Lakes Basin Pilot

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Feinstein, D.T., Hunt, R.J., and Reeves, H.W., 2010, Regional groundwater-flow model of the Lake Michigan Basin in support of Great Lakes Basin water availability and use studies: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5109, 379 p.




 1. Introduction

 2. Data and Methods

 3. Conceptual Model of Regional Groundwater System

 4. Model Construction

 5. Model Calibration

 6. Model Results

 7. Alternative Conceptual Models and Model Sensitivity

 8. Model Limitations and Suggestions for Future Work

 9. Summary and Conclusions

10. References

Appendix 1.  Geohydrologic Framework

Appendix 2.  Inland Surface-Water Network

Appendix 3.  Power Law for Horizontal Hydraulic Conductivity of QRNR Deposits

Appendix 4.  Initial Bedrock Hydraulic Conductivity

Appendix 5.  Calibration Parameters

Appendix 6.  Initial and Calibrated Input for Hydraulic-Conductivity Zones

Appendix 7.  Base-Flow Calibration Targets

Appendix 8.  Comparison of Measured and Simulated Values at Calibration Targets

Appendix 9.  Geometric Means of Hydraulic-Conductivity Values, by Aquifer System, for Initial and Calibrated Models

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