Because of its "renewability" water is unique among earth resources that sustain and enhance life. No other mineral resource that we extract on a long-term and continuous basis can be counted on for at least some degree of replenishment within a human lifetime. This attribute allows a great deal of flexibility in management of the resource. In Delaware local rainfall, approximately 40" to 44" per year, renews part or all of our water supply on a regular basis. However, not all of the rain that falls is available for use. From this total rainfall must be subtracted the water that evaporates (about 20"/ year), the amount that is used by plants (about 3"/year), and the amount that runs overland to surface streams during storms (about 4"-5"/year). The remainder, approximately 13" to 15" is Delaware's bank of water for the year. This water is stored in a system of ground-water reservoirs, or aquifers, that underlie most of the State. Not only do these ground-water reservoirs provide water to wells but they also maintain the flow in surface streams during times of no rainfall. Streamflow between rainfall events is nothing more than the discharge of
excess ground water.
The storage and movement of ground water depends on the types of rocks and associated
interconnected spaces in which the water occurs. The Piedmont Province in northernmost
Delaware is underlain by crystalline rocks. Because of the massiveness and hardness of such
rocks, they yield little or no interstitial water to wells. Water is stored in and moves through fractures, cracks, and solution cavities. The amount of water available depends on the number and size of openings, and the degree to which they are interconnected. Wells drilled in the Piedmont range from 100 to 400 feet in depth and yields are highly variable over very short distances.
In the Coastal Plain, the rest of the State, ground water is stored and transmitted in spaces between adjacent rock particles. As much as 30 percent of the rock mass may be saturated. Unconsolidated rocks are analogous to a bathtub filled with sand into which water is poured. The Coastal Plain consists of sandy water-bearing units referred to as aquifers interlayered between non-water-bearing units. Wells constructed for domestic use range in depth from 15 feet to 500 feet. Yields are generally much greater than those obtained from the crystalline rocks of the Piedmont. In general, minimum well yields of 3 to 5 gallons per minute are adequate for most domestic water supply systems.
Thickness, Elevation of the Base, and Transmissivity Grids of the Unconfined Aquifer of Sussex County (Data Product No. 06-01)
The unconfined portion of the Columbia aquifer is a key hydrologic unit in Delaware, supplying water to many agricultural, domestic, industrial, public, and irrigation wells. The aquifer is recharged through infiltration of precipitation and is the source of fair-weather stream flow and water in deeper confined aquifers. The aquifer occurs in permeable sediments ranging in age from Miocene to Recent. Over most of Delaware, the top of the unconfined or water-table portion of the Columbia aquifer occurs at depths less than 10 feet below land surface. Because of the permeable character of the aquifer and its near-surface location, the unconfined aquifer is highly susceptible to contamination.
In the same ways as our printed publications, digital data released by the DGS represent the results of original professional research and as such are used by professionals and the public.
Ground-water recharge potential maps show land areas characterized by their abilities to transmit water from land surface to a depth of 20 feet. The basic methods for mapping ground-water recharge potential are presented in Delaware Geological Survey Open File Report No. 34 (Andres, 1991) and were developed specifically for the geohydrologic conditions present in the Coastal Plain of Delaware. The digital data for this layer comes from DGS Digital Data Product DP 02-01, Digital Ground-Water Recharge Potential Map Data For Kent and Sussex Counties, Delaware: A. S. Andres, C. S. Howard, T. A. Keyser, L. T. Wang, 2002.
RI74 Locating Ground-Water Discharge Areas in Rehoboth and Indian River Bays and Indian River, Delaware Using Landsat 7 Imagery
Delaware’s Inland Bays in southeastern Sussex County are valuable natural resources that have been experiencing environmental degradation since the late 1960s. Stresses on the water resource include land use practices, modifications of surface drainage, ground-water pumping, and wastewater disposal. One of the primary environmental problems in the Inland Bays is nutrient over-enrichment. Nitrogen and phosphorous loads are delivered to the bays by ground water, surface water, and air. Nitrogen loading from ground-water discharge is one of the most difficult to quantify; therefore, locating these discharge areas is a critical step toward mitigating this load to the bays. Landsat 7 imagery was used to identify ground-water discharge areas in Indian River and Rehoboth and Indian River bays in Sussex County, Delaware. Panchromatic, near-infrared, and thermal bands were used to identify ice patterns and temperature differences in the surface water, which are indicative of ground-water discharge. Defining a shoreline specific to each image was critical in order to eliminate areas of the bays that were not representative of open water. Atmospheric correction was not necessary due to low humidity conditions during image acquisition. Ground-water discharge locations were identified on the north shore of Rehoboth Bay (west of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal), Herring and Guinea creeks, the north shore of Indian River, and the north shore of Indian River Bay near Oak Orchard.
A geographic information system-based study was used to estimate the elevation of the water table in the Inland Bays watershed of Sussex County, Delaware, under dry, normal, and wet conditions. Evaluation of the results from multiple estimation methods indicates that a multiple linear regression method is the most viable tool to estimate the elevation of the regional water table for the Coastal Plain of Delaware. The variables used in the regression are elevation of a minimum water table and depth to the minimum water table from land surface. Minimum water table is computed from a local polynomial regression of elevations of surface water features. Correlation coefficients from the multiple linear regression estimation account for more than 90 percent of the variability observed in ground-water level data. The estimated water table is output as a GIS-ready grid with 30-m (98.43 ft) horizontal and 0.305-m (1 ft) vertical resolutions.
Ground-water recharge potential maps support decision-making and policy development in land use, water-resources management, wastewater disposal systems development, and environmental permitting in state, county, and local governments. Recently enacted state law requires that counties and towns with more than 2,000 residents provide protection to areas with excellent recharge potential in comprehensive land use plans. Approximately 14 percent of Kent County and 8 percent of Sussex County have areas with excellent recharge potential. Ground-water recharge potential maps show land areas characterized by the water-transmitting capabilities of the first 20 feet below land surface. Ground-water recharge potential mapping in Kent and Sussex counties was done using geologic mapping techniques and over 6,000 subsurface observations in test borings, wells, borrow pits, natural exposures, and ditches. Hydraulic testing of more than 200 wells shows that the four recharge potential categories (excellent, good, fair, poor) can be used as predictors of the relative amounts and rates at which recharge will occur. Numerical modeling shows that recharge rates in areas with excellent recharge potential can be two to three times greater than rates in fair and poor recharge areas. Because of the association of recharge potential map categories with hydraulic properties, map categories are indicators of how fast contaminants will move and how much water may become contaminated. Numerical modeling of contaminant transport under different recharge potential conditions predicts that greater masses of contaminants move more quickly and affect greater volumes of water under higher recharge potential conditions than under lower recharge potential conditions. This information can be used to help prioritize and classify sites for appropriate remedial action.
The Cypress Swamp Formation is the surficial geologic unit in south-central Sussex County, Delaware. Detailed hydrologic observations made as part of four separate studies between 1995 and 1999 show that the Cypress Swamp Formation consists of a complex assemblage of moderately permeable sands and low permeability organic and inorganic silts and clays that form a heterogeneous shallow subsurface hydrologic system that is between about 5 and 15 feet thick. Aquifer tests show that hydraulic conductivity ranges between 0.55 and 40 ft/day, with an arithmetic mean of 13 feet/day.
The Cypress Swamp of Sussex County, Delaware, is underlain by a body of late Pleistocene- to Holocene-age unconsolidated sediments. They form a mappable geologic unit herein named the Cypress Swamp Formation. Deposits of the formation can be found outside the current boundaries of the Cypress Swamp and record the erosion and redistribution of older Pleistocene coastal and Pliocene sedimentary units.
RI61 The Occurrence and Distribution of Several Agricultural Pesticides in Delaware’s Shallow Ground Water
In June 1996, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) proposed a regulation to require individual states to develop Pesticide Management Plans (PMPs) to protect their ground-water resources from pesticide contamination. The USEPA designated the predominantly agricultural pesticides atrazine, alachlor, cyanazine, metolachlor, and simazine as the first five that would require a PMP.
Water samples were collected from 63 wells in southern New Castle County to assess the occurrence and distribution of dissolved inorganic chemicals in ground water. Rapid growth is projected for the study area, and suitable sources of potable drinking water will need to be developed. The growth in the study area could also result in degradation of water quality. This report documents water quality during 1991-92 and provides evidence for the major geochemical processes that control the water quality.
Several common herbicides used on corn and soybeans were detected in ground water at two agricultural sites in Delaware as part of a study of the distribution of herbicides in shallow ground water and the environmental factors affecting their occurrence.
The results of this investigation of the Columbia aquifer in coastal Sussex County, Delaware, provide some of the data necessary to evaluate the condition of the area's primary source of fresh water. Chemical analyses of water samples from domestic, agricultural, public, and monitoring wells document the effects of past and present land use practices. Groundwater flow paths and flow systems are inferred from flow-net analysis, ground-water chemistry, and isotopic composition.
RI45 Effects of Agricultural Practices and Septic-System Effluent on the Quality of Water in the Unconfined Aquifer in Parts of Eastern Sussex County, Delaware
The unconfined aquifer is a major source of water supply in eastern Sussex County, Delaware. It also is an important source of water for surface-water bodies and deeper, confined aquifers. The aquifer consists mainly of permeable sand and gravel; its shallow water table is susceptible to contamination by nitrate and other chemical constituents associated with agricultural practices and effluent from septic systems.
The results of water-budget and flow-net model calculations indicate that the rate of fresh ground-water discharge into Rehoboth and Indian River bays is in the range of 21 to 43 million gallons per day. The estimates should be used only as gross indicators of actual conditions because of data gaps and the simplifying assumptions used in the models. However, the estimated discharge rates are significant and useful studies of the water budget of the Bays.
RI41 Hydrogeology and Geochemistry of the Unconfined Aquifer, West-Central and Southwestern Delaware
The unconfined aquifer is the major source of water supply in west-central and southwestern Delaware. The aquifer, which is composed of quartz sand, gravel, clay, and silt, ranges in thickness from 20 to 200 feet. The water table ranges from land surface to about 20 feet below land surface. Analyses of water from wells distributed throughout the area were used to study processes controlling the chemical quality of the water in the unconfined aquifer.
A multiple linear regression method was used to estimate water-table elevations under dry, normal, and wet conditions for the Coastal Plain of Delaware. The variables used in the regression are elevation of an initial water table and depth to the initial water table from land surface. The initial water table is computed from a local polynomial regression of elevations of surface-water features. Correlation coefficients from the multiple linear regression estimation account for more than 90 percent of the variability observed in ground-water level data. The estimated water table is presented in raster format as GIS-ready grids with 30-m horizontal (~98 ft) and 0.305-m (1 ft) vertical resolutions. Water-table elevation and depth are key facets in many engineering, hydrogeologic, and environmental management and regulatory decisions. Depth to water is an important factor in risk assessments, site assessments, evaluation of permit compliance data, registration of pesticides, and determining acceptable pesticide application rates. Water-table elevations are used to compute ground-water flow directions and, along with information about aquifer properties (e.g., hydraulic conductivity and porosity), are used to compute ground-water flow velocities. Therefore, obtaining an accurate representation of the water table is also crucial to the success of many hydrologic modeling efforts. Water-table elevations can also be estimated from simple linear regression on elevations of either land surface or initial water table. The goodness-of-fits of elevations estimated from these surfaces are similar to that of multiple linear regression. Visual analysis of the distributions of the differences between observed and estimated water elevations (residuals) shows that the multiple linear regression-derived surfaces better fit observations than do surfaces estimated by simple linear regression.
This map shows the saturated thickness of the water-table aquifer. This aquifer consists of the deposits of the Columbia Formation and those portions of the Magothy and Englishtown-Mt. Laurel formations, and Rancocas Group that are hydraulically connected with the Columbia deposits (see Groot, Demicco, and Cherry, 1983). For example, large, saturated thicknesses in the zone trending northeast-southwest near Townsend reflect the addition of the sands of the Rancocas Group to the total thickness of the sands of the overlying Columbia Formation.