The U.S. Geological Survey, as part of its Climate and Land Use Change Research and Development Program, is conducting a multi-year investigation to assess potential impacts on the natural resources of Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland that may result from changes in the hydrologic system in response to projected sea-level rise. As part of this effort, 26 monitoring wells were installed in pairs along five east-west trending transects. Each of the five transects has between two and four pairs of wells, consisting of a shallow well and a deeper well. The shallow well typically was installed several feet below the water table—usually in freshwater about 10 feet below land surface (ft bls)—to measure water-level changes in the shallow groundwater system. The deeper well was installed below the anticipated depth to the freshwater-saltwater interface—usually in saltwater about 45 to 55 ft bls—for the purpose of borehole geophysical logging to characterize local differences in lithology and salinity and to monitor tidal influences on groundwater. Four of the 13 shallow wells and 5 of the 13 deeper wells were instrumented with water-level recorders that collected water-level data at 15-minute intervals from August 12 through September 28, 2010. Data collected from these instrumented wells were compared with tide data collected north of Assateague Island at the Ocean City Inlet tide gage, and precipitation data collected by National Park Service staff on Assateague Island. These data indicate that precipitation events coupled with changes in ambient sea level had the largest effect on groundwater levels in all monitoring wells near the Atlantic Ocean and Chincoteague and Sinepuxent Bays, whereas precipitation events alone had the greatest impact on shallow groundwater levels near the center of the island. Daily and bi-monthly tidal cycles appeared to have minimal influence on groundwater levels throughout the island and the water-level changes that were observed appeared to vary among well sites, indicating that changes in lithology and salinity also may affect the response of water levels in the shallow and deeper groundwater systems throughout the island. Borehole geophysical logs were collected at each of the 13 deeper wells along the 5 transects. Electromagnetic induction logs were collected to identify changes in lithology; determine the approximate location of the freshwater-saltwater interface; and characterize the distribution of fresh and brackish water in the shallow aquifer, and the geometry of the fresh groundwater lens beneath the island. Natural gamma logs were collected to provide information on the geologic framework of the island including the presence and thickness of finer-grained deposits found in the subsurface throughout the island during previous investigations. Results of this investigation show the need for collection of continuous water-level data in both the shallow and deeper parts of the flow system and electromagnetic induction and natural gamma geophysical logging data to better understand the response of this groundwater system to changes in precipitation and tidal forcing. Hydrologic data collected as part of this investigation will serve as the foundation for the development of numerical flow models to assess the potential effects of climate change on the coastal groundwater system of Assateague Island.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Well network installation and hydrogeologic data collection, Assateague Island National Seashore, Worcester County, Maryland, 2010
Scientific Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey
Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia Water Science Center