University of Memphis CAESER


Fayette County, Tennessee: Recharge Research


Client: Fayette County, Tennessee
Project: Recharge Research

CAESER has been conducting water recharge research at the Pinecrest Conference and Retreat Center in Fayette County for the past 15 years. We've focused on avenues and rates of recharge to the Memphis aquifer, which is the primary source of drinking water for over one million citizens. The answers have not come easily because proper analysis required drilling of multiple wells in complex terrain, installation of a weather station, measuring soil moisture using three techniques (lysimeter, tensiometer, and neutron probe), stream gaging using a weir and Parshall flume, and several years of monitoring and now numerical modeling.

Results show, quite astonishingly, that little rainfall percolates to the Memphis aquifer from upland surfaces, but rather most of the recharge comes from water flowing down gullies in the hillslope, especially during the wetter times of the year. Observations indicate that the recharge is not happening in the gullies in the upper watershed region, but at the topographical base that pushes a groundwater front back under the hillslope terrain.

Understanding the mechanisms for recharge help in preserving crucial areas from development. Knowing the recharge rates will greatly help utilities develop water resource sustainability plans.

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