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Evaluating impacts of subdivision density on shallow groundwater in southeastern Wisconsin, USA


  • Todd Rayne
  • Kenneth Bradbury


Using simple numerical groundwater flow models, we tested the impacts of suburban developments on groundwater levels and discharge to streams. We used lot sizes of 1, 3 and 5 acres (4000, 12,000 and 20,000 m2) with one domestic well per lot that pumped water from shallow aquifers. Our modelling showed that pumping had little impact on water levels and groundwater discharge to streams if the developed area is of a moderate size. However, domestic wells had the potential to impact local groundwater levels and baseflows in large developments. In township-wide development scenarios of 1-acre (4000 m2) lots, simulated drawdowns beneath developed areas ranged from 1 to 18 ft (0.3 to 5.5 m), and baseflow reductions ranged from 20 to 40%. Impacts generally were inversely proportional to lot size, recharge rate and hydraulic conductivity of the aquifer materials. Developments using individual domestic wells have the potential to impact local groundwater levels and surface water features. The impacts can range from negligible to severe, depending on local hydrogeologic conditions and on whether wastewater is recharged onsite or is removed from the basin. An assessment of groundwater impacts should be a part of the planning process for all suburban developments.

Suggested Citation

  • Todd Rayne & Kenneth Bradbury, 2011. "Evaluating impacts of subdivision density on shallow groundwater in southeastern Wisconsin, USA," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 54(5), pages 559-575.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jenpmg:v:54:y:2011:i:5:p:559-575
    DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2010.524358

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