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Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5102

Compilation of Regional Ground-Water Divides for Principal Aquifers Corresponding to the Great Lakes Basin, United States

By R.A. Sheets and L.A. Simonson

National Water Availability and Use Program


A compilation of regional ground-water divides for the five principal aquifers corresponding to the Great Lakes Basin within the United States is presented. The principal aquifers (or aquifer systems) are the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system, Silurian-Devonian aquifers, Mississippian aquifers, Pennsylvanian aquifers, and the surficial aquifer system. The regional ground-water divides mark the boundary between ground-water flow that discharges to the Great Lakes or their tributaries and ground-water flow that discharges to other major surface-water bodies, such as the Mississippi River. Multicounty to multistate (regional) hydrologic studies of the five principal aquifers were reviewed to determine whether adequate data, such as potentiometric surfaces or ground-water divides, were available from which ground-water flow directions or ground-water-divide locations could be derived. Examination of regional studies indicate that the regional ground-water divides for the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system and Silurian-Devonian aquifers have changed over time and differ from the surface-water divides in some areas. These differences can be attributed to either pumping or natural processes. The limited information on the shallow Mississippian and Pennsylvanian bedrock aquifers indicate that these aquifers and the surficial aquifer system act as one hydrostratigraphic unit and that downdip flow is insignificant. Generally, in the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian aquifers, regional ground-water divides are similar to regional surface-water divides. Previous studies of the regional ground-water divide of the surficial aquifer system depict the regional ground-water divide as generally following the regional surface-water divide.

Because studies commonly focus on areas where ground-water use from an aquifer system is concentrated, the regional ground-water divides are not known in large, unstudied parts of some of these aquifer systems. A composite ground-water divide for the region was generated and is estimated to generally follow the surface-water divide, except in areas where anthropogenic or natural factors affect its position.

Revision Note (January 2008)

An error was discovered in figure 4, on page 7. Readers who have paper copies of the report may wish to open and print that figure for inclusion in their copies. Readers who downloaded electronic files prior to January 2008 may wish to download the report again.

Table of Contents




Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

Geohydrologic Setting

Water Use


Compilation of Regional Ground-Water Divides

Cambrian-Ordovician Aquifer System

Silurian-Devonian Aquifers

Mississippian Aquifers

Pennsylvanian Aquifers

Surficial Aquifer System

Composite Regional Ground-Water Divides for Consolidated-Rock Aquifers

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

Box 1. Factors Affecting Position of Regional Ground-Water Divides

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