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Development of Mineral Environmental Assessment Methodologies
Task 2 - Development of Mineral Environmental Assessment Techniques at the Watershed Scale

Groundwater Assessment Methods

• Project Overview
• Development of Geoenvironmental Model Assessment Tools
• Development of Mineral Environmental Assessment Techniques at the Watershed Scale
• Mineral Environmetnal Assessment at Regional Scales
• Development of Assessment Methods in Support of USGS Integrated Science
• Products
• Project Contacts

Subtask Contact: Andrew Manning

Subtask Objectives


Subtask Objectives

In order to predict the potential impact of a mineral deposit or a mine site on the environmental health of a watershed, it is necessary to consider the manner in which metals are transported through the watershed. Groundwater typically composes a large fraction of stream flow, and therefore can be a principal pathway by which metals are introduced to the stream ecosystem. Because metals can be liberated by water-rock interactions within the ground-water system (particularly in the shallow seasonally saturated zone), the groundwater may exert a primary control upon both the rate and distribution of metals released to the near-surface environment in a watershed. A successful model of the potential watershed-scale environmental consequences of mining specific mineral deposits therefore probably must have a ground-water component.

A host of model types could conceivably be used to relate groundwater parameters (and factors controlling them) to stream metal loads. These range from detailed, site-specific numerical flow and transport models (based on first principals of physics and chemistry) to simple statistical "black-box" models based on emperical relationships. The central focus of this subtask's work will therefore be to evaluate these different models types and determine which type might be most appropriate as a plug-in for the transport module in the watershed-scale MEA toolbox. The most feasible model to use probably will be some form of a statistical model. However, no such models currently exist that specifically relate watershed ground-water characteristics to surface-water metal concentrations. Work on this subtask consisted of developing such a statistical model.

Ultimately, the objective of this subtaskwas to develop a plug-in (or series of plug-ins)for the transport module in the watershed-scale MEA toolbox that helps predict surface water metal concentrations given the characterisitics of the ground-water system in the watershed.


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