Determining the Sustainability of Coal Mine Cavity Discharge as a Drinking Water Source


TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


In southwestern Virginia, adequate sources of public water for small isolated communities are difficult to find. While many alternatives exist, one of the largest sources of water in this region is flooded abandoned coal mines. One such coal mine aquifer was chosen for a sustainability study in Dickenson County, Virginia. A flowrate monitoring system was installed at the point of discharge from the mine, and the flow records from three months of data collection were analyzed. The recording period included one of the driest periods in recent years, and the flowrate data recorded provided useful information regarding the sustainability of the system. After a study of the geology and groundwater flow patterns in the region, it was determined that a coal mine aquifer is very similar to the extremely heterogeneous system seen in karst landscapes. Thus, techniques common to karst phenomenon were used to analyze the spring hydrograph. A spring recession analysis was performed upon five storm recessions, and the coefficients for each recession compared and discussed in light of known geologic information. It was discovered that the recession coefficients described the flow from the mine very adequately and that the mine response to a rainfall pulse was very similar to the response of certain types of karst aquifers. This information was used to predict a sustainable flow from the mine. A cross-correlation analysis was performed in an attempt to fit a "black box" model to the flow data, as well as to verify the results of the spring recession analysis. The correlation analysis proved that one rainfall event produced many separate reactions in the flowrate at the mine discharge point. This strengthened results concluded by the recession analysis. It was found that the flow record was not long enough to adequately create a statistical model, but a procedure was described that could be used to model flows once a larger flow record was available.



Mine Hydrology, Spring Recession Analysis, Karst Hydrology, Alternative Drinking Water Source