OFR45 Characterization of the Potomac Aquifer, an Extremely Heterogeneous Fluvial System in the Atlantic Coastal Plain of Delaware
Fluvial sands of the subsurface Cretaceous Potomac Formation form a major aquifer system used by a growing population in the northern Coastal Plain of Delaware. The aquifer is extremely heterogeneous on the megascopic scale and connectivity of permeable fluvial units is poorly constrained. The formation is characterized by alluvial plain facies in the updip section where it contains potable water. While over 50 aquifer tests indicate high permeability, the formation is primarily composed of fine-grained silt and clay in overbank and interfluvial facies. Individual fluvial sand bodies are laterally discontinuous and larger-scale sand packages appear to be variable in areal extent resulting in a labyrinth style of heterogeneity. The subsurface distribution of aquifers and aquitards has been interpreted within a new stratigraphic framework based on geophysical logs and on palynological criteria from four cored wells. The strata dip gently to the southeast, with generally sandy fluvial facies at the base of the formation lapping onto a south-dipping basement unconformity. The top of the formation is marked by an erosional unconformity that truncates successively older Potomac strata updip. Younger Cretaceous units overly the formation in its downdip area. In the updip area, the formation crops out or subcrops under Quaternary sands.The fine-grained facies include abundant paleosols that contain siderite nodules and striking mottling that commonly follows ped faces and root traces. These paleosols may serve as regional aquitards. This geologic complexity poses a challenge for determining the magnitudes and directions of ground-water flow within the aquifer that are needed for making informed decisions when managing this resource for water supply and contaminant remediation.
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.
Ground water is Delaware's most important natural resource. Our aquifers, which are present everywhere in Delaware, provide more than 75 million gallons each day for all uses. Nearly all of the water used in Delaware south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is obtained from aquifers, both water-table and artesian. An appreciable quantity of water is also obtained from aquifers in northern New Castle County. Ground water has generally been of good quality, been used with little or no treatment, and has been readily available at low cost.
OFR26 Salinity Distribution and Ground-Water Circulation beneath the Coastal Plain of Delaware and the Adjacent Continental Shelf
The possibility of salt-water encroachment into the aquifers of the Coastal Plain of Delaware from saline-water bodies (Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, Delaware Bay, Atlantic Ocean) has received considerable attention (e.g., Sundstrom et al., 1967, 1971, 1976; Woodruff, 1969). These authors have shown that, so far, little encroachment has taken place. It is also known that a large body of highly saline water occurs at depth beneath the Coastal Plain (Upson, 1966; Back, 1966; Brown and Reid, 1976) and the adjacent continental shelf, but no reports have been published about its origin and shape, and the salinity distribution and flow pattern within it. Yet, this saline-water body has a bearing on the development of fresh-water resources throughout Delaware, the feasibility of constructing injection wells for the disposal of liquid wastes, and radioactive waste disposal in the crystalline rocks beneath the Coastal Plain sediments, and upon the occurrence or migration of hydrocarbons (Bredehoeft and Maini, 1981). It is, therefore, important to study this body of saline water.
B16 Ground-Water Resources of the Piney Point and Cheswold Aquifers in Central Delaware as Determined by a Flow Model
A quasi three-dimensional model was constructed to simulate the response of the Piney Point and Cheswold aquifers underlying Kent County, Delaware to ground-water withdrawals. The model included the Magothy, Piney Point, Cheswold, and unconfined aquifers, and was calibrated using historical pumpage and water-level data. Model calibration was accomplished through the use of both steady-state and transient-state simulations.
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.
Water-level records from 13 observation wells in Delaware for the period July, 1966 - December, 1977 provide the bases for the analyses of water-level fluctuations. Water levels in shallow water-table wells generally rise from November to March, when recharge exceeds discharge, and decline during the warm growing season from May through September. Although water-levels in individual wells changed by as much as 11.17 feet during the 11.5 year period studied, the water-table system remained in a state of dynamic equilibrium and exhibited no permanent changes in aquifer storage. However, the water levels in three artesian observation wells have declined during the same 11.5 year period in response to high demands for ground water while levels in the other two artesian wells have risen slightly due to a reduction in ground-water discharge, or increase in ground-water recharge, or both. Nevertheless during the past several decades, water levels have declined, cones of depression have enlarged, and reductions in aquifer storage, have occurred in the Potomac aquifer in central and southeastern New Castle County, and the Piney Point and Cheswold aquifers in the Dover-Dover Air Force Base area. Therefore, future groundwater development in the artesian aquifers must be carefully planned and managed.
Well and aquifer coefficients have been determined for a crystalline rock aquifer system that provides part of the water supply of the City of Newark, Delaware. Conventional analytical methods can be used to derive coefficients for crystalline rocks in the Newark area if the limitations of such methods are recognized and if the local hydrologic framework is known.
Information on ground-water quality in Delaware has become critical for three reasons: (1) increased water demand, (2) need for a better understanding of ground-water flow patterns, (3) need for a "base" against which future quality changes can be measured. Analyses of about 150 water quality samples from wells show that Delaware's fresh ground waters are suitable for most purposes. High iron content may occur, however, in wells tapping the Columbia and the Potomac formations. Overall, total dissolved solids in Delaware aquifers are relatively low except in the Cheswold and Frederica aquifers (Miocene), and possibly parts of the Piney Point Formation (Eocene).
The ground-water recharge potential map of Sussex County, Delaware, is a compilation of 1:24,000-scale maps of the water-transmitting properties of sediments in the interval between land surface and 20 ft below land surface. Water-transmitting properties are a key factor in determining the amount of water that recharges Delaware’s aquifers and the susceptibility of aquifers used as sources of water supply to contamination from near-surface pollutant sources. The mapping methodology was developed by Andres (1991) for the geologic characteristics of the Atlantic Coastal Plain portion of Delaware. Mapping and methods development started in 1990 and the final maps were completed in 2002 (Andres et al., 2002). Additional information about the map and methodology and a list of cited references are presented on the reverse side. The mapping program was funded by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Delaware Geological Survey.
The ground-water recharge potential map of Kent County, Delaware, is a compilation of 1:24,000-scale maps of the water-transmitting properties of sediments in the interval between land surface and 20 ft below land surface. Water-transmitting properties are a key factor in determining the amount of water that recharges Delaware’s aquifers and the susceptibility of aquifers used as sources of water supply to contamination from near-surface pollutant sources. The mapping methodology was developed by Andres (1991) for the geologic characteristics of the Atlantic Coastal Plain portion of Delaware. Mapping and methods development started in 1990 and the final maps were completed in 2002 (Andres et al., 2002). Additional information about the map and methodology and a list of cited references are presented on the reverse side. The mapping program was funded by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Delaware Geological Survey.
Geology and hydrology of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Area, Delaware. There are 2 sheets in this series.