US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Geophysical Research Letters, VOL. 39, L03304, doi:10.1029/2011GL050167, 2012


The need for sustainable management of fresh water resources is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. Since most of the planet’s liquid fresh water exists as groundwater, it is essential to develop non-invasive geophysical techniques to characterize groundwater aquifers. A field experiment was conducted in the High Plains Aquifer, central United States, to explore the mechanisms governing the non-invasive Surface NMR (SNMR) technology. We acquired both SNMR data and logging NMR data at a field site, along with lithology information from drill cuttings. This allowed us to directly compare the NMR relaxation parameter measured during logging, T2, to the relaxation parameter T2* measured using the SNMR method. The latter can be affected by inhomogeneity in the magnetic field, thus obscuring the link between the NMR relaxation parameter and the hydraulic conductivity of the geologic material. When the logging T2 data were transformed to pseudo- T2* data, by accounting for inhomogeneity in the magnetic field and instrument dead time, we found good agreement with T2* obtained from the SNMR measurement. These results, combined with the additional information about lithology at the site, allowed us to delineate the physical mechanisms governing the SNMR measurement. Such understanding is a critical step in developing SNMR as a reliable geophysical method for the assessment of groundwater resources.