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.
Water Conditions Index for Northern New Castle County
Delaware Water Conditions Report for current and historical periods of record.
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.
The occurrences of earthquakes in northern Delaware and adjacent areas of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey are well documented by both historical and instrumental records. Over 550 earthquakes have been documented within 150 miles of Delaware since 1677. One of the earliest known events occurred in 1737 and was felt in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. The largest known event in Delaware occurred in the Wilmington area in 1871 with an intensity of VII (Modified Mercalli Scale). The second largest event occurred in the Delaware area in 1973 (magnitude 3.8 and maximum Modified Mercalli Intensity of V-VI). The epicenter for this event was placed in or near the Delaware River. Sixty-nine earthquakes have been documented or suspected in Delaware since 1871.
Map and data listing of all earthquakes with an epicenter within the State of Delaware.
Numerical indicators, or indices, are widely used to measure the status of complex relationships. As such, indices have become accepted by researchers and the public in such disparate fields as economics, air quality, and weather. In this paper we explore the formulation of an indicator of water conditions in northern Delaware, propose formulas that may be applicable, and test those proposals against long-term records of basic data. The need for a simple indicator of water supply conditions in Delaware, and especially in New Castle County, has become increasingly apparent. The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has applied an index to the Delaware River Basin, which includes a portion of Delaware. The Governor's Drought Advisory Committee has sought an objective means of determining when water supply conditions might warrant conservation measures. Discussions of the subject have also been held within the State Comprehensive Water Management Committee. We are pleased to acknowledge the constructive comments of these groups and of other colleagues with whom we have discussed this work. George R. Phillips of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) was especially helpful in analyzing the practical implications of using the index presented in this paper. John R. Mather, Delaware State Climatologist, provided Palmer Drought Severity Index values with the cooperation of the National Weather Service. This report was reviewed by Richard N. Benson and John H. Talley of the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS).