Wellfield optimization to minimize contaminant migration from a surficial to a semi-confined aquifer using numerical modeling


The shallow, Memphis, and Fort Pillow aquifers are the three major water-bearing strata beneath Memphis, Tennessee, where the Memphis aquifer serves as the primary groundwater source. The upper Claiborne confining unit (UCCU) separates shallow and Memphis aquifers across the majority of Shelby County, acting as an upper protective layer for the Memphis aquifer. However, hydrogeologic breaches within the UCCU create a hydraulic connection and provide an avenue for potential contaminant migration from the shallow to the Memphis aquifer. This research aims to minimize contaminant migration, mitigate risks, extend existing wells' life that may face water contamination, and find suitable locations for future well construction. Several strategies are developed addressing well depth, seasonal well operation, and mapping no-drilling or red zones to provide practical solutions. A numerical groundwater modeling technique is developed for each strategy that includes stochastic simulation–optimization and customized simulation models depending on the strategy. The models result in thousands of numerical simulations for each scenario to identify recurring patterns of contaminant movement to and through the Memphis aquifer. The results indicate that optimum well positions (spatially and vertically) and modification to pumping can increase the life expectancy of wellfields, offer sustainable management of the Memphis aquifer, and reduce contaminant migration through 2050.

Publication Title

Journal of the American Water Resources Association