Underground Mine Water Inflow

Williams, Roy E. ; Winter, Gerry V. ; Bloomsburg, George L. ; Ralston, Dale R.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 11
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1986
GENERAL HYDROLOGIC REGIME The total hydrologic cycle must be considered when evaluating potential ground water problems in a mining environment. Precipitation is the ul¬timate source of all surface water and essentially all ground water. Stream flow during low flow periods often orig¬inates as seeps or stream gains (base flow) where the water table intersects the land surface. A stream that is higher in elevation than the ground water system may lose flow, thereby recharging the ground water system. The magnitude of stream gain or loss is dependent upon the hydraulic conductiv¬ity and related properties of the underlying hydrostratigraphic units. Ground water moves constantly from recharge areas to discharge areas (streams and springs) usually at very slow rates. Large quantities of ground water may be in¬tercepted in many underground mining environ¬ments. Construction of an underground mine in saturated formations may encounter ground water inflows ranging from very small to very large and from continuous to intermittent depending upon the hydraulic properties of the hydrostratigraphic units penetrated. SURFACE WATER VARIABLES Precipitation occurs in different forms, varying amounts, and with a wide assortment of temporal and areal distributions in the various mining dis¬tricts within the United States. Mine inflow can be affected in a matter of hours by precipitation events where there is a direct hydraulic interconnection between the mine and the surface through fractures or a mine opening. The timing, form, amount, and distribution of precipitation should be evaluated in a mine inflow study. A portion of the precipitation that falls in a topographic basin moves as sheet flow to runoff channels (Fig. 1). Some of the precipitation infil¬trates the unsaturated soil zone where it can either move laterally as interflow to the surface system to augment stream flow or move downward as re¬-charge to the ground water system. The unsatu¬rated zone (called the zone of aeration or vadose zone) can range in thickness from essentially zero to a few hundred feet. The saturated zone or ground water system occurs below the water table (zone where hydrostatic pressure is greater than atmos¬pheric pressure) where all the pores are filled with water (Freeze and Cherry, 1979, p. 44). Moisture can be lost from any of the systems (surface water system, unsaturated zone, and ground water sys¬tem) by the processes of evaporation and transpir¬ation which return moisture to the atmosphere. Stream flow consists of runoff and interflow components plus an additional base flow compo¬nent (Fig. 2). Base flow constitutes ground water discharge to a stream. Base flow plays an increas¬ingly significant role as total stream flow declines. Base flow is important because it constitutes much if not all stream flow between periods of precipi¬tation when runoff and interflow have largely dis¬sipated. INTERACTION OF SURFACE WATER AND GROUND WATER SYSTEMS Recharge from a surface water system to ground water systems can occur via unsaturated or saturated flow. The amount of recharge is depen¬dent primarily upon the vertical hydraulic conduc¬tivity of the formations underlying the stream and the availability of water. Streams that flow over low hydraulic conductivity formations lose little water even if the ground water levels are significantly lower than the stream. A ground water system may contribute flow to a surface water system but nor¬mally only by saturated flow. This contribution usually takes the form of seeps, springs, and the base flow of streams. GROUND WATER VARIABLES Introduction The variables that affect ground water flow are discussed in increasingly complex theoretical situ-
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