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.
The purpose of this investigation was to obtain data on and study the factors affecting the salinity of the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pa., to the Appoquinimink River, Del. The general chemical quality of water in the estuary is described, including changes in salinity in the river cross section and profile, diurnal and seasonal changes, and the effects of rainfall, sea level, and winds on salinity. Relationships are established of the concentrations of chloride and dissolved solids to specific conductance. In addition to chloride profiles and isochlor plots, time series are plotted for salinity or some quantity representing salinity, fresh-water discharge, mean river level, and mean sea level. The two major variables which appear to have the greatest effect on the salinity of the estuary are the fresh-water flow of the river and sea level. The most favorable combination of these variables for salt-water encroachment occurs from August to early October and the least favorable combination occurs between December and May.
Sussex County is in the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Its relatively flat, featureless topography is characterized by two terrace-like surfaces; the lower one rises from sea level to about 40 feet above sea level, and the higher one rises inland from 40 to about 60 feet above sea level. Peculiar landforms of low relief, broad ovals, similar to the "Carolina bays," and to the "New Jersey basins" are common on the sandy flat divides in Sussex County. Hydrologically, they are sites of much ground-water discharge, by evapotranspiration, from meadow and marsh of lush vegetation.
The location of the fresh-salt-water-boundary in the deeper aquifers of Delaware is related mainly to head values. Near coastal areas, dynamic conditions may prevail that affect the interface position within shallow aquifers open to the sea. Holocene and Columbia sands which form Delaware's shallow water-table aquifers contain brackish water in scattered coastal areas while brackish water in the artesian aquifers is found at various depths. Water from Chesapeake Group sediments (Miocene) is fresh in Kent County but is salty in poorly defined areas of Sussex County. The interface in the Piney Point Formation (Eocene) lies just north of Milford and extends in a northeast-southwesterly direction across the State. Brackish water exists in the Magothy and Potomac formations of Cretaceous age a few miles south of Middletown. Heavy pumping near sources of brackish water should be avoided for the present. Proper location of monitoring wells is necessary for detection of future chloride movement.
At present, Delaware has an abundance of water for the foreseeable future, but is already faced with water problems in some municipalities. These can only be resolved satisfactorily through complete evaluation of the State's water resources and the establishment of a coordinated program of water management.
The purpose of this investigation was to obtain data on and study the factors affecting the salinity of the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Reedy Island, Delaware. The techniques of analyses of data and results of the analyses are presented.