RI79 Simulation of Groundwater Flow and Contaminant Transport in Eastern Sussex County, Delaware With Emphasis on Impacts of Spray Irrigation of Treated Wastewater
This report presents a conceptual model of groundwater flow and the effects of nitrate (NO3-) loading and transport on shallow groundwater quality in a portion of the Indian River watershed, eastern Sussex County, Delaware. Three-dimensional, numerical simulations of groundwater flow, particle tracking, and contaminant transport were constructed and tested against data collected in previous hydrogeological and water-quality studies.
The simulations show a bimodal distribution of groundwater residence time in the study area, with the largest grouping at less than 10 years, the second largest grouping at more than 100 years, and a median of approximately 29 years.
Historically, the principal source of nitrate to the shallow groundwater in the study area has been from the chemical- and manure-based fertilizers used in agriculture. A total mass of NO3- -nitrogen (N) of about 169 kg/day is currently simulated to discharge to surface water. As the result of improved N-management practices, after 45 years a 20 percent decrease in the mass of NO3- -N reaching the water table would result in an approximately 4 percent decrease in the mass of simulated N discharge to streams. The disproportionally smaller decrease in N discharge reflects the large mass of N in the aquifer coupled with long groundwater residence times.
Currently, there are two large wastewater spray irrigation facilities located in the study domain: the Mountaire Wastewater Treatment Facility and Inland Bays Wastewater Facility. The effects of wastewater application through spray irrigation were simulated with a two-step process. First, under different operations and soil conditions, evaporation and water flux, NO3- -N uptake by plants, and NO3- -N leaching were simulated using an unsaturated flow model, Hydrus-1D. Next, the range of simulated NO3- -N loads were input into the flow and transport model to study the impacts on groundwater elevation and NO3- -N conditions.
Over the long term, the spray irrigation of wastewater may increase water-table elevations up to 2.5m and impact large volumes of groundwater with NO3-. Reducing the concentration of NO3- in effluent and increasing the irrigation rate may reduce the volumes of water impacted by high concentrations of NO3-, but may facilitate the lateral and vertical migration of NO3-. Simulations indicate that NO3- will eventually impact deeper aquifers. An optimal practice of wastewater irrigation can be achieved by adjusting irrigation rate and effluent concentration. Further work is needed to determine these optimum application rates and concentrations.
Ground-water levels are basic information needed for evaluating water conditions and for basic and applied research. For these efforts, water levels are being measured statewide in wells completed in multiple aquifers. Some wells are measured for specific projects, such as the Coastal Aquifers Salinity Project and the Water Conditions program, while other wells are measured so that staff can maintain long term records of ground-water levels for evaluation of trends. Table contains summary data from wells having 100 or more water level observations.
RI75 Stratigraphy and Correlation of the Oligocene to Pleistocene Section at Bethany Beach, Delaware
The Bethany Beach borehole (Qj32-27) provides a nearly continuous record of the Oligocene to Pleistocene formations of eastern Sussex County, Delaware. This 1470-ft-deep, continuously cored hole penetrated Oligocene, Miocene, and Pleistocene stratigraphic units that contain important water-bearing intervals. The resulting detailed data on lithology, ages, and environments make this site an important reference section for the subsurface geology of the region.
Population and accompanying water use are expected to increase by 34 percent in southeastern Delaware between 1975 and 2000. To assess the capability of the aquifers in that area to supply the required amount of ground water, a study of those aquifers was started in 1976. Interpretation of geologic sections developed from drilling and geophysical data showed that the confining beds between the Manokin, Ocean City, and Pocomoke aquifers of Neogene age are thin and discontinuous in some parts of the area. Possible fault zones coinciding with deep tectonic features may also contribute to interconnection of these aquifers. Hydrographs of water levels in the aquifers show differential drawdown during periods of heavy pumping, but levels return to a common altitude during unstressed periods. Because of these characteristics, the Manokin, Ocean City, and Pocomoke aquifers are considered to be a single confined aquifer, in most places.
Southern New Castle County has a land area of 190 square miles in north-central Delaware. It is predominantly a rural area with a population of about 9,000 people who are engaged chiefly in agriculture. By and large, the residents are dependent upon ground water as a source of potable water. This investigation was made to provide knowledge of the availability and quality of the ground-water supply to aid future development. The climate, surface features, and geology of the area are favorable for the occurrence of ground water. Temperatures are generally mild and precipitation is normally abundant and fairly evenly distributed throughout the year. The topography of the area is relatively flat and, hence, the streams have low gradients. The surface is underlain to a considerable depth by highly permeable unconsolidated sediments that range in age from Early Cretaceous to Recent.
Northern Delaware, the area above the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in New Castle County, is an area of rapidly growing population and expanding industry. In some places the demand for water has reached or exceeded the capacity of the existing facilities creating apparent water shortages. Many agencies, both public and private, are attempting to alleviate these shortages; studies are being made and reports prepared for immediate action as well as long-term planning. It is the purpose of this report to examine on a long-range basis the water resources of the northern Delaware area. This examination indicates that the surface-water and groundwater resources of the area far exceed the 72.8mgd (million gallons per day) used during 1955. The amount of ground water potentially available in the area is estimated to be at least 30 mgd and the amount of surface water potentially available depends principally on the amount of storage that may be feasible economically. Storage of 3 million gallons per square mile would provide an allowable draft rate of 140 mgd with a deficiency at average intervals of ten years, while storage of 30 million gallons per square mile would raise the allowable draft to 250 mgd, which is about half of the mean annual discharge. In addition to the fresh-water resources, saline water from the Delaware River and its tidal estuaries is available in almost unlimited quantity for cooling, fire fighting, some types of washing, and other purposes.
The need for locating additional sources of ground water for the Delaware Atlantic seashore, a predominantly recreation-oriented area, is indicated by an expanding population in the belt between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., combined with increasing leisure time. Present water use in the shore area is approximately 4 million gallons per day and will reach 9.3 million gallons per day by the year 2000. A new geologic interpretation of the occurrence of deep aquifers in the Delaware Atlantic seashore area is presented. Recent data from deep wells has enabled the construction of a more accurate geologic framework upon which the hydrologic data are superimposed. Correlation of Miocene sands concludes that the Manokin aquifer lies at greater depths in southeastern Delaware than previously thought.
The surficial geology of the Ellendale and Milton quadrangles reflects the geologic history of the Delaware Bay estuary and successive high and low sea levels during the Quaternary. Ramsey (1992) interpreted the Beaverdam Formation as deposits of a fluvial-estuarine system during the Pliocene. Sediment supply was high, in part due to geomorphic adjustments in the Appalachians related to the first major Northern Hemisphere glaciations around 2.4 million years ago. The Beaverdam Formation forms the core of the central Delmarva Peninsula around which wrap the Quaternary deposits.
These vector and raster data sets contain the rock unit polygons for the surficial geology in the Delaware Coastal Plain covered by DGS Geologic Map No. 11 (Milton-Ellendale area) in ESRI shapefile and TIF format.