Assessment of aquifer properties, evapotranspiration, and the effects of ditching in the Stoney Brook watershed, Fond du Lac Reservation, Minnesota, 2006-9

Scientific Investigations Report 2015-5007
Prepared in cooperation with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
By:  and 



The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, assessed hydraulic properties of geologic material, recharge, and evapotranspiration, and the effects of ditching on the groundwater resources in the Stoney Brook watershed in the Fond du Lac Reservation. Geologic, groundwater, and surface-water data were collected during 2006–9 to estimate hydrologic properties in the watershed. Streamflow and groundwater levels in the shallow glacial deposits in the Stoney Brook watershed were analyzed to estimate groundwater-flow directions, groundwater recharge, and evapotranspiration within the watershed and to assess the effect of ditches on surrounding groundwater resources. Groundwater, streamflow, and precipitation data collected during the study (2006–9) can be used to update the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and Fond du Lac Resource Management Division surface-water models, which are used to evaluate the effect of proposed adjustments to the ditching system on streamflow on wild rice production and aquatic habitats.

Specific yields calculated from the well water levels ranged from 0.11 to 0.40, and hydraulic conductivities determined from water levels measured during well slug tests ranged from 1 to 7 feet per day. The values for specific yields were similar to values obtained in other studies done in glacial materials of similar composition in Minnesota. The higher hydraulic conductivity estimate (7 feet per day) was similar to lower hydraulic conductivities estimated in another hydrologic study conducted in Carlton County, Minnesota.

The installation of drainage ditches in the Stoney Brook watershed has reduced water levels in lakes connected to the ditch system, and has locally reduced groundwater levels in shallow groundwater adjacent to the ditches and lakes. Differences in near-ditch groundwater hydrographs relative to far-ditch groundwater hydrographs indicate that the effect of the ditches on groundwater is only localized to near-ditch areas. These hydrograph differences resulted in large differences between recharge estimated at wells near and far from ditches. In this study, recharge estimated at wells within 50 feet of a ditch was influenced by ditch-water levels. Annual groundwater recharge estimates from water levels and streamflows during 2006–9 ranged from 0.36 to 34.8 inches, and varied with climate, geology, and well location relative to ditches. The higher recharge estimates were determined from analysis of groundwater levels in wells near the ditches because the shallow groundwater in these wells received both infiltration from ditches and areal groundwater recharge from precipitation. The water-table fluctuation method using a manual groundwater recession approach for wells far from ditches provided the best estimates of areal groundwater recharge to the shallow glacial aquifer because water levels in these wells were not affected by water infiltrating from ditches (bank storage). For wells more than 400 feet from ditches, mean annual areal groundwater recharge estimates using the manual groundwater recession approach for wells screened mostly in outwash sands during 2007, 2008, and 2009 ranged from 4.47 to 18.6 inches (wells 5, 7, 13, 14 and 15), and ranged from 0.43 to 2.85 inches for wells screened mostly in clayey sand or sandy clay (wells 9 and 16). Recharge estimates at wells far from ditches were similar to basinwide recharge estimates from streamflow.

Daily fluctuations in water levels in two wells indicated that the evapotranspiration extinction depth in the Stoney Brook watershed is approximately 4.6 to 6 feet below the land surface. A polynomial regression fit of the daily evapotranspiration rates during 2006–9 for well 1 produced a total evapotranspiration estimate of 16.1 inches from June 26 to October 6 for every year. Evapotranspiration estimated from daily water-level fluctuations in wells near ditches is relatively high. The ditch-water surface allowed for relatively high evaporation compared to the land surface, which, with a good hydraulic connection to surrounding groundwater, resulted in relatively high fluctuations in daily groundwater levels near ditches, resulting in high evapotranspiration estimates.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Assessment of aquifer properties, evapotranspiration, and the effects of ditching in the Stoney Brook watershed, Fond du Lac Reservation, Minnesota, 2006-9
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2015-5007
DOI 10.3133/sir20155007
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Minnesota Water Science Center
Description vi, 33 p.
Time Range Start 2006-01-01
Time Range End 2009-12-31
Country United States
State Minnesota
Other Geospatial Fond du Lac Reservation, Stoney Brook watershed
Datum North American Datum of 1983
Projection Universal Transverse Mercator projection, Zone 15
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details