Charles E. Heywood, Jason M. Griffith, and John K. Lovelace
Groundwater withdrawals have caused saltwater to encroach into freshwater-bearing aquifers beneath Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Groundwater investigations in the 1960s identified a freshwater-saltwater interface located at the Baton Rouge Fault, across which abrupt changes in water levels occur. Aquifers south of the fault generally contain saltwater, and aquifers north of the fault contain freshwater, though limited saltwater encroachment has been detected within 7 of the 10 aquifers north of the fault. The 10 aquifers beneath the Baton Rouge area, which includes East and West Baton Rouge Parishes, Pointe Coupee Parish, and East and West Feliciana Parishes, provided about 167 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) for public supply and industrial use in 2010. Groundwater withdrawals from the “2,000-foot” sand in East Baton Rouge Parish have caused water-level drawdown as great as 356 feet (ft) and induced saltwater movement northward across the fault. Saltwater encroachment threatens industrial wells that are located about 3 miles north of the fault. Constant and variable-density groundwater models were developed with the MODFLOW and SEAWAT groundwater modeling codes to evaluate strategies to control saltwater migration, including changes in the distribution of groundwater withdrawals and installation of “scavenger” wells to intercept saltwater before it reaches existing production wells.
Six hypothetical scenarios simulated the effects of different groundwater withdrawal options on groundwater levels within the “1,500-foot” sand and the “2,000-foot” sand and the transport of saltwater within the “2,000-foot” sand during 2008–47. Scenario 1 is considered a base case for comparison to the other five scenarios and simulates continuation of 2007 reported groundwater withdrawals. Scenario 2 simulates discontinuation of withdrawals from seven selected industrial wells located in the northwest corner of East Baton Rouge Parish and predicts that water levels within the “1,500-foot” sand will be about 10 to 12 ft higher with this withdrawal reduction than under scenario 1. Scenario 3 simulates the effects of a scavenger well on water levels and chloride concentrations within the “2,000-foot” sand. The scavenger well, which withdraws water from the base of the “2,000-foot” sand at a rate of 2.0 Mgal/d, is simulated at two possible locations. In comparison to the concentrations simulated in scenario 1, operation of the scavenger well at the locations specified in scenario 3 reduces the chloride concentrations at all existing chloride-observation well locations. Scenario 4 simulates a 3.6 Mgal/d reduction in total groundwater withdrawals from selected wells screened in the “2,000-foot” sand that are located in the Baton Rouge industrial district. Under scenario 4, chloride concentrations decrease in the leading portion of the plume south of the industrial district but increase in areas farther east. Scenario 5 simulates the effects of total cessation of withdrawals from the “2,000-foot” sand in the industrial district, which causes a change in the groundwater-flow direction toward municipal supply wells and increased chloride concentrations in the area where municipal supply wells are located. Scenario 6 simulates the combined effect of withdrawal reductions from the “2,000-foot” sand and operation of a scavenger well and was most effective at decreasing the size of the plume area and median and mean chloride concentrations within the “2000-foot” sand in the Baton Rouge area.