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Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4077

Prepared in cooperation with the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Geohydrology and Numerical Simulation of Alternative Pumping Distributions and the Effects of Drought on the Ground-Water Flow System of Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

By Stephen B. Gingerich

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Ground water in a freshwater lens is the main source of freshwater on Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Four major geologic units make up the island with high-permeability limestone units overlying low-permeability volcanic rocks. Estimates of limestone hydraulic conductivity range from 21 to 23,000 feet per day.

Estimates of water-budget components for Tinian are 82 inches per year of rainfall, about 6 inches per year of runoff, 46 inches per year of evapotranspiration, and 30 inches per year of recharge. From 1990–97, ground-water withdrawal from the Municipal well, the major source of water, averaged about 780 gallons per minute.

A two-dimensional, steady-state, ground-water flow model using the computer code SHARP was developed for Tinian, to enhance the understanding of (1) the distribution of aquifer hydraulic properties, (2) the conceptual framework of the ground-water flow system, and (3) the effects of various pumping distributions and drought on water levels and the freshwater/saltwater transition zone. For modeling purposes, Tinian was divided into three horizontal hydraulic-conductivity zones: (1) highly permeable limestone, (2) less-permeable, clay-rich limestone, and (3) low-permeability volcanic rocks.

The following horizontal hydraulic conductivities were estimated: (1) 10,500 feet per day for the highly permeable limestone, (2) 800 feet per day for the less-permeable clay-rich limestone, and (3) 0.2 foot per day for the volcanic rocks.

To estimate the hydrologic effects of different pumping distributions on the aquifer, three different steady-state pumping scenarios were simulated, (1) a scenario with no ground-water pumping, (2) a 2001-pumping scenario, and (3) a maximum-pumping scenario.

The results of the no-pumping scenario showed that the freshwater/saltwater interface beneath the Municipal well would be about 7 feet deeper and ground-water discharge to the coast would be higher along both the east and west coasts of the island when compared with 1990–97 pumping conditions. For the maximum pumping scenario, the model-calculated freshwater/saltwater interface is about 7 feet shallower than the position calculated in the base-case scenario.

To estimate the hydrologic effects of drought on the freshwater lens, the 2001- and maximum-pumping scenarios were simulated using three combinations of aquifer porosity values covering a range of possible limestone properties. In all scenarios, recharge was reduced to 10 percent of average estimated recharge and the transient response was simulated for 1 year. These simulations demonstrated that the ground-water resource is adequate to withstand a drought similar to that experienced in 1998 using existing infrastructure.

For additional information contact:

District Chief
U.S. Geological Survey
677 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 415
Honolulu, HI 96813

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Suggested citation:

Gingerich, S.B., 2002, Geohydrology and numerical simulation of alternative pumping distributions and the effects of drought on the ground-water flow system of Tinian, commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4077, 46 p.





Water Budget

Ground-Water Flow System

Ground-Water Data

Development of Steady-State Ground-Water Flow Model

Model Limitations

Data Needs

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

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