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.
To understand the effects of projected increased demands on groundwater for water supply, a finite-difference, steady-state, groundwater flow model was used to simulate groundwater flow in the Coastal Plain sediments of southern New Castle County, Delaware. The model simulated flow in the Columbia (water table), Rancocas, Mt. Laurel, combined Magothy/Potomac A, Potomac B, and Potomac C aquifers, and intervening confining beds. Although the model domain extended north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, south into northern Kent County, east into New Jersey, and west into Maryland, the model focused on the area between the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the Delaware River, and the Maryland-Delaware border. Boundary conditions for these areas were derived from modeling studies completed by others over the past 10 years.
Compilation and review of data used for model input revealed gaps in hydraulic properties, pumping, aquifer and confining bed geometry, and water-level data. The model is a useful tool for understanding hydrologic processes within the study area such as horizontal and vertical flow directions and response of aquifers to pumping, but significant data gaps preclude its use for detailed analysis for water resources management including estimating flow rates between Delaware and adjacent states. The calibrated model successfully simulated groundwater flow directions in the Rancocas and Mt. Laurel aquifers as expected from the conceptual model. Flow patterns in the Rancocas and Mt. Laurel aquifers are towards local streams, similar to flow directions in the Columbia (water table) aquifer in locations where these aquifers are in close hydraulic connection.
Water-budget calculations and simulated heads indicate that deep confined aquifers (Magothy and Potomac aquifers) receive groundwater recharge from shallow aquifers (Columbia, Rancocas, and Mt. Laurel aquifers) in most of the study domain. Within shallow aquifers, groundwater moves toward major streams, while in the deep aquifers, groundwater moves
toward major pumping centers.
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.
The unconfined aquifer in central and southeastern Delaware occurs as a southward-thickening blanket of fine to coarse sand, and is recharged almost totally by precipitation and discharge is principally by seepage to streams, bays, and the ocean.