Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design



Committee Chair

Nicolas Zegre

Committee Co-Chair

Joe Donovan

Committee Member

Pamela Edwards

Committee Member

Michael Strager


In the Appalachian Plateau region, the heterogeneous coal geology and fractured bedrock aquifers has led to complexity in understanding groundwater resources in West Virginia. Groundwater is a major resource in the Monongahela National Forest where private residences, public works, and national forest operations all rely heavily on this resource. In recent years, Marcellus shale gas has been explored in a small region of the Gauley River Basin, within the boundaries of the Monongahela National Forest. Hydrogeochemical evaluation of groundwater was carried out in this region with the objective of establishing a baseline of groundwater chemistry prior to potential Marcellus development. Groundwater was analyzed from 48 wells over the 400-square kilometer study area and analyzed for 23 parameters including major and trace constituents, and stable isotopes. The multivariate methods of principal components analysis (PCA) and hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) were combined with graphical methods (Piper, Stiff, Gibbs) to identify trends in water geochemistry. Samples were classified into three clusters: cluster 3 as deep groundwater, corresponding with high mineralization, valley settings, and silicate weathering processes; cluster 2 as shallower groundwater, corresponding with low mineralization, hilltop and hillside settings, and carbonate weathering processes; and cluster 1 as pristine groundwater, corresponding with little to no mineralization, predominantly occurring at hilltop settings and in groundwater springs. Overall, samples showed relatively low TDS that are indicative of fairly pure groundwaters. The increased mineralization from cluster 1 to cluster 3 is indicative of the evolution of groundwater along the flow path. This study establishes a baseline of groundwater chemistry and identifies that the chemical composition of groundwater in undeveloped regions of the Appalachian Plateau are relatively pure. Furthermore, groundwater chemistry is topographically distinct, with water-rock interactions along the groundwater flow path controlling the hydrogeochemistry in the region.