Sussex County

The Delaware Water Conditions Summary

The Water Conditions Summary is an online monthly summary of water conditions in Delaware. Principal factors in determining water conditions are precipitation, streamflow, and groundwater levels in aquifers. Data from rain gages, stream gages, and observation wells located throughout Delaware have been collected and compiled since the 1960s by the Delaware Geological Survey. These data are displayed as hydrographs and are also available for download. In general, water is abundant in Delaware, but supply is restricted by natural geologic conditions in some areas, by contamination in others, and is dependent on precipitation.

Nanticoke River Group

The Nanticoke River Group consists of the Turtle Branch and Kent Island Formations. The Nanticoke River Group consists of heterogeneous units of interbedded fine to coarse sand, clayey silt, sandy silt, and silty clay. Where the units are muddy, downstream of Seaford, the sequence consists of a lower fluvial to estuarine swamp to tidal stream deposits (coarse sand to gravelly sand with scattered organic-rich muddy beds) overlain by estuarine clayey silts and silty clays that contain rare to common Crassostrea (oyster) bioherms. The silts and clays are overlain by sands with clay laminae, to fine to coarse well-sorted, clean sand that are estuarne beach and eolian in origin. Upstream, the mud beds are rarer and restricted to the west side of streams and consist of organic rich clayey silt. Most of the stratigraphic section is dominated by clean, well-sorted sands.

Assawoman Bay Group

The Assawoman Bay Group consists of the well-sorted sands, silts, and clays of the Omar, Ironshire, and Sinepuxent Formations found adjacent to and inland of the Atlantic Coast of Delaware and Maryland. These deposits in Delaware and Maryland were named from oldest to youngest: the Omar Formation (Jordan, 1962, 1964), the Ironshire Formation (Owens and Denny, 1979a), and the Sinepuxent Formation (Owens and Denny, 1979a).

Kent Island Formation

Owens and Denny (1979) named the Kent Island Formation for deposits bordering the Chesapeake Bay found underneath lowlands that ranged in elevation from 0 to 25 feet in elevation but most of the land surface area is less than 10 feet in elevation. These lowlands are bordered by a scarp with at toe at approximately 25 feet. In its type area, the Kent Island Formation was described as consisting of thick beds of loose, light colored, cross-stratified sand overlying dark-colored massive to thinly laminated clay-silt. Pebbles as much as 10 cm (4 in.) in diameter occur in thin beds with the sand or as scattered clasts in both the sand and clay-silt. Locally, large tree stumps in growth position are encased in the clay-silt. Maximum thickness of the Kent Island was about 12 m (40 feet).

Omar Formation

The Omar Formation was originally described (Jordan, 1962) as consisting of interbedded, gray to dark gray, quartz sands and silts with bedding ranging from a few inches to more than 10 feet thick. Thin laminae of clay are found within the fine, well-sorted sands. Silt mixed with sand generally contains some plant matter and where dark in color could be considered organic. Sands contain wood fragments, some of which are lignitic.

Ironshire Formation

The Ironshire Formation was described by Owens and Denny (1979) as consisting of a lower loose, pale-yellow to white, well-sorted, medium sand characterized by long, low-angle inclined beds with laminae of black minerals. The upper portion of the units was described as consisting of light-colored, trough cross-stratified, well-sorted sand with pebbles and a few Callianassa borings. They described the Ironshire Formation near Rehoboth in a stratigraphic section which is now considered to be a part of the Lynch Heights Formation.

Sinepuxent Formation

Owens and Denny (1979) described the Sinepuxent Formation in Maryland as dark, poorly sorted, silty fine to medium sand with the lower part of the unit being fine grained with thin beds of black clay. The Sinepuxent Formation is described as being lithically distinct from the Omar and Ironshire Formations due to the presence gray, laminated, silty very fine to fine, quartzose, micaceous, sand to sandy silt. The base of the unit is typically a bluishgray to dark-gray clayey silt to silty clay. There are a few shelly zones within the Sinepuxent Formation in the vicinity of Bethany Beach (McDonald, 1981; McLaughlin et al., 2008). The Sinepuxent Formation is up to 40 feet thick.

Bethany Formation

The composition, thickness, and geophysical log signature of the Bethany Formation vary with location and depth. In general, the Bethany Formation is a sequence of clayey and silty beds with discontinuous lenses of sand (Andres, 1986; Ramsey, 2003). The most common lithologies are silty, clayey fine sand; sandy, silty clay; clayey, sandy silt; fine to medium sand; sandy, clayey silt, and medium to coarse sand with granule and pebble layers. Thin gravel layers occur most frequently in updip areas and are rarer in downdip areas. Sands are typically quartzose. Lignite, plant remains, and mica are common, grains of glauconite are rare. In the Lewes area, Ramsey (2003) describes the Bethany Formation as consisting of gray, olive gray, bluish-gray clay to clayey silt interbedded with fine to very coarse sand. Lignitic and gravelly beds are common.

Cypress Swamp Formation

The upper part of the Cypress Swamp Formation is a multi-colored, thinly bedded to laminated, quartzose fine sand to silty fine sand, with areally discontinuous laminae to thin beds of fine to coarse sand, sandy silt, clayey silt, organic silt, and peat. The lowermost 3 to 6 ft of the unit are commonly composed of thin beds of dark-colored, organic-rich, clayey silt with laminae to thin beds of fine sand and peat. Fine sand to fine sandy silt are present at the base of the unit in boreholes where the lower organic-rich beds are absent. Dark-colored, peaty, organic-rich silt and clayey silt with laminae of fine to medium sand as much as 4.5 ft thick are common within 5 ft of land surface, but may be absent in some locations. Colors are shades of brown, gray, and green where the unit contains visible organic matter, and orange, yellow, and red at shallow depths where the organic-rich beds are absent. Clay-sized minerals are a mixed suite that includes kaolinite, chlorite, illite, and vermiculite.