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TitleBuried valleys and till in the Canadian Prairies: geology, hydrogeology, and origin
LicencePlease note the adoption of the Open Government Licence - Canada supersedes any previous licences.
AuthorCummings, D I; Russell, H A JORCID logo; Sharpe, D R
SourceGeological Survey of Canada, Current Research (Online) no. 2012-4, 2012, 26 pages, Open Access logo Open Access
PublisherNatural Resources Canada
Mediaon-line; digital
File formatpdf
ProvinceAlberta; Manitoba; Saskatchewan
NTS62; 63A; 63B; 63C; 63D; 63E; 63F; 63G; 72; 73; 82H; 82I; 82J; 82O; 82P; 83; 84
Lat/Long WENS-120.0000 -96.0000 60.0000 49.0000
Subjectshydrogeology; stratigraphy; sedimentology; aquifers; buried valleys; porosity; permeability; groundwater; groundwater resources; groundwater surveys; tills; till deposits; depositional environment; depositional history; Cenozoic; Quaternary
Illustrationslocation maps; photographs; tables; plots; cross-sections
ProgramGroundwater Geoscience, Aquifer Assessment & support to mapping
Released2012 07 26
AbstractWe review over 100 years of literature on Prairie buried valleys and till to provide a platform for future research and policy development. Buried-valley aquifers in the Prairies commonly yield abundant groundwater. They have distinct geologies and distinct stratigraphic settings, which impart them with distinct hydrogeological properties and give clues as to how they formed and filled. Prairie buried-valley aquifers are commonly encased in low-permeability strata: Cretaceous shale tends to underlie them and thick (10-300 m) low-permeability Quaternary till tends to overlie them. This reduces recharge, in rare cases nearly completely, while protecting groundwater resources from contamination and drought. It also tends to lead to highly mineralized groundwater chemistries. The stratigraphic positions of Prairie buried valleys also speak to their origin: those that subtend ('hang') from the bedrock unconformity were likely eroded by preglacial fluvial systems during late Tertiary uplift of the Rocky Mountains, whereas those that subtend from surfaces within the till package are likely glaciofluvial valleys eroded in proglacial spillway or tunnel-valley settings. Another key trait of Prairie buried valleys is that their fills tend to be heterogeneous and architecturally complex. Sand, gravel, mud, and diamicton are common; any one can dominate the fill at a given location. This heterogeneity, in conjunction with irregularity common to buried-valley bedrock floors, commonly causes aquifer compartmentalization and makes prediction of aquifer potential difficult prior to drilling. It also suggests that most Prairie buried valleys filled over time, and possibly over multiple glaciations, in multiple deposition environments.

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