Ground Water Atlas of the United States: Segment 11, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia

Hydrologic Atlas 730-L




Segment 11 consists of the States of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, West Virginia, and the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Virginia. All but West Virginia border on the Atlantic Ocean or tidewater. Pennsylvania also borders on Lake Erie. Small parts of northwestern and north-central Pennsylvania drain to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario; the rest of the segment drains either to the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Major rivers include the Hudson, the Delaware, the Susquehanna, the Potomac, the Rappahannock, the James, the Chowan, the Neuse, the Tar, the Cape Fear, and the Yadkin-Peedee, all of which drain into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Ohio and its tributaries, which drain to the Gulf of Mexico. Although rivers are important sources of water supply for many cities, such as Trenton, N.J.; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pa.; Baltimore, Md.; Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Va.; and Raleigh, N.C., one-fourth of the population, particularly the people who live on the Coastal Plain, depends on ground water for supply. Such cities as Camden, N.J.; Dover, Del.; Salisbury and Annapolis, Md.; Parkersburg and Weirton, W.Va.; Norfolk, Va.; and New Bern and Kinston, N.C., use ground water as a source of public supply. All the water in Segment 11 originates as precipitation. Average annual precipitation ranges from less than 36 inches in parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia to more than 80 inches in parts of southwestern North Carolina (fig. 1). In general, precipitation is greatest in mountainous areas (because water tends to condense from moisture-laden air masses as the air passes over the higher altitudes) and near the coast, where water vapor that has been evaporated from the ocean is picked up by onshore winds and falls as precipitation when it reaches the shoreline. Some of the precipitation returns to the atmosphere by evapotranspiration (evaporation plus transpiration by plants), but much of it either flows overland into streams as direct runoff or enters streams as base flow (discharge from one or more aquifers). The distribution of average annual runoff (fig. 2) is similar to the distribution of precipitation; that is, runoff is generally greatest where precipitation is greatest. Runoff rates range from more than 50 inches per year in parts of western North Carolina to less than 12 inches in parts of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Parts of the seven following physiographic provinces are in Segment 11: the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge, the New England, the Valley and Ridge, the Appalachian Plateaus, and the Central Lowland. The provinces generally trend northeastward (fig. 3). The northeastern terminus of the Blue Ridge Province is in south-central Pennsylvania, and the southwestern part of the New England Province, the Reading Prong, ends in east-central Pennsylvania. The topography, lithology, and water-bearing characteristics of the rocks that underlie the Blue Ridge Province and the Reading Prong are similar. Accordingly, for purposes of this study, the hydrology of the Reading Prong is discussed with that of the Blue Ridge Province. The Coastal Plain Province is a lowland that borders the Atlantic Ocean. The Coastal Plain is as much as 140 miles wide in North Carolina but narrows northeastward to New Jersey where it terminates in Segment 11 at the south shore of Raritan Bay. Although it is generally a flat, seaward-sloping lowland, this province has areas of moderately steep local relief, and its surface locally reaches altitudes of 350 feet in the southwestern part of the North Carolina Coastal Plain. The Coastal Plain mostly is underlain by semiconsolidated to unconsolidated sediments that consist of silt, clay, and sand, with some gravel and lignite. Some consolidated beds of limestone and sandstone are present. The Coastal Plain sediments range in age from Jurassic to Holocene and dip gently toward the ocean. The boundary between the C

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Ground Water Atlas of the United States: Segment 11, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Series title:
Hydrologic Atlas
Series number:
Year Published:
Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s):
U.S. Geological Survey
1 atlas (24 p.) :col. ill., col. maps ;59 cm.
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title:
Ground Water Atlas of the United States