Presentation 2014-001

Author(s) Date 2014-12-19

A regional scale study of groundwater flow dynamics was undertaken in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB), comprising parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. The objective of the study is to investigate basin-scale hydrogeology in WCSB and to establish boundary conditions for future local-scale groundwater management models. Earlier work in the Alberta basin has acknowledged the fact that in addition to topography controlled conditions, a substantial part of the basin exhibits sub-hydrostatic regimes. The basin-scale model (approx. 420,000 km2) includes Upper Cretaceous aquifers to Recent age sediments which collectively attain maximum thicknesses of >2600 m. Regional aquifer units considered for the numerical model are Quaternary sediments, and the sedimentary rocks of the Paskapoo, Scollard, Horseshoe Canyon formations and the Belly River Group. Regional aquitards delineated include the Battle and Bear Paw formations. The study area is bound to the west by the Brazeau-Waptiti thrust belt and to the south by the Canada-USA international border. The boundary to the north and east is delineated by the maximum extent of the Wapiti and Belly River groups and Judith River Formation. USGS MODFLOW was implemented for numerical simulation. The steady state numerical model was calibrated using a Response Surface based (Radial Basis Functions) optimization method. The calibration targets (~2000) were comprised of drill stem tests for deeper units and static water levels for shallower units. Petrophysical analyses of cores averaged K values from analyses of aquifer test results, and literature values were used to provide initial values and calibration ranges for hydraulic properties. Results indicate predominance of topography driven, local- to intermediate-scale flow systems in all hydrostratigraphic units with recharge of these units occurring in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The Battle aquitard, where present, acts to retard regional flow. Sensitivity analysis of the steady-state model calibration was evaluated for hydraulic conductivities and recharge rates.

American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2014