Thousands of homeowners in Delaware currently rely on individual wells and water systems to provide water. In addition, hundreds of new wells and systems are constructed each year to provide water for those not served by public water systems. Methods used to construct water wells in Delaware are discussed in DGS Information Series No. 2 (Domestic Water Well
Construction). Domestic water systems are described herein.
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.
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.