Indian River Bay
Monitoring wells and groundwater sensors were installed and monitored in and around Holts Landing State Park on the Indian River Bay, eastern Sussex County, Delaware, between October 2009 and August 2012. Data from test drilling, geophysical logging, geophysical surveys, and well testing characterized the hydrogeological framework and spatial and temporal patterns of water pressure, temperature, and salinity in the shallow, unconfined Columbia aquifer. The work revealed a plume of freshened groundwater extending more than 650 ft into the bay from the shoreline.
A recently released article “Hydrogeologic controls on groundwater discharge and nitrogen loads in a coastal watershed” by the Journal of Hydrology details the results of a joint groundwater simulation and water quality sampling study that focused on submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) to Indian River and Rehoboth Bays, part of Delaware Inland Bays.
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.
On a small, homemade barge, built from the skeleton of an old ship, a gray slurry of bay bottom sand flows out, of a pipe into a bucket. Two scientists, a well driller and two student interns drill a hole in the floor of the Indian River Bay. They'll install a very long pipe into the hole and use it to monitor groundwater - how much flows 'into the bay, how salty it is and how many nutrients it carries with it.
Scott Andres of the Delaware Geological Survey and Holly Michael, assistant professor of geological sciences, participated in 2011 National Ground Water Association (NGWA) Groundwater Summit and were co-organizers of the session titled "Submarine Discharge of Groundwater and Nutrients into Estuaries and Oceans," May 3, Baltimore.
Scientists study flow of groundwater into bays. Results may help track pollution.
On a small, homemade barge, built from the skeleton of an old ship, a gray slurry of bay bottom sand flows out of a pipe into a bucket. Two scientists, a well driller and two student interns drill a hole in the floor of the Indian River Bay. They’ll install a very long pipe into the hole and use it to monitor groundwater – how much flows into the bay, how salty it is and how many nutrients it carries with it.
Eutrophication is one of the most common and most severe problems facing coastal bays in
populated and agricultural areas. Unnaturally high quantities of nutrients enter fresh groundwater and surface water as a result of human activities. These nutrients contribute to the overpopulation of phytoplankton and macroalgae in coastal surface waters, which results in deterioration of water quality and animal habitat. This is a particular problem in the Delmarva region, where poultry farms, agricultural activity, and growing human populations have contributed to rapidly declining populations of blue crabs, striped bass, and many other species which live and breed in estuarine waters. The economic value of these species has, in part, prompted political action and efforts to manage nutrient inputs to groundwater and surface water, the primary pathways for nutrient loading to coastal waters. Despite significant reductions, coastal water quality has largely remained poor. A better understanding of the processes that moderate nutrient loading to coastal waters, particularly via groundwater, which is much more difficult to monitor than surface water inputs, is essential for improved management methods that will result in healthy coastal ecosystems. This project will improve understanding of where nutrients are coming from and how loading may be reduced, and may aid in identification of activities that exacerbate negative impacts.
The final DGS report on this project has been released and is available at: