, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 345-352

DIVERSITY: A new method for evaluating sensitivity of groundwater to contamination

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Abstract

This study outlines an improved method, DIVERSITY, for delineating and rating groundwater sensitivity. It is an acronym for DIspersion/VElocity-Rated SensitivITY, which is based on an assessment of three aquifer characteristics: recharge potential, flow velocity, and flow directions. The primary objective of this method is to produce sensitivity maps at the county or state scale that illustrate intrinsic potential for contamination of the uppermost aquifer. Such maps can be used for recognition of aquifer sensitivity and for protection of groundwater quality. We suggest that overriding factors that strongly affect one or more of the three basic aquifer characteristics may systematically elevate or lower the sensitivity rating. The basic method employs a three-step procedure: (1) Hydrogeologic settings are delineated on the basis of geology and groundwater recharge/discharge position within a terrane. (2) A sensitivity envelope or model for each setting is outlined on a three-component rating graph. (3) Sensitivity ratings derived from the envelope are extrapolated to hydrogeologic setting polygons utilizing overriding and key factors, when appropriate. The three-component sensitivity rating graph employs two logarithmic scales and a relative area scale on which measured and estimated values may be plotted. The flow velocity scale ranging from 0.01 to more than 10,000 m/d is the keystone of the rating graph. Whenever possible, actual time-of-travel values are plotted on the velocity scale to bracket the position of a sensitivity envelope. The DIVERSITY method was developed and tested for statewide use in Kentucky, but we believe it is also practical and applicable for use in almost any other area.