The seaward-dipping sedimentary wedge that underlies the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain forms a complex groundwater system. This major source of water provides for public and domestic supply and serves as a vital source of freshwater for industrial and agricultural uses throughout the region. Population increases and land-use and climate changes, however, have led to competing demands for water. The regional response of the aquifer system to these stresses poses regional challenges for water-resources management at the State level because hydrologic effects often extend beyond State boundaries. In response to these challenges, the U.S. Geological Survey Groundwater Resources Program began a regional assessment of the groundwater availability of the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain aquifer system in 2010.
The initial phase of this investigation included a refinement of the hydrogeologic framework and an updated hydrologic budget of this aquifer system from the last regional aquifer system assessment completed by the U.S. Geological Survey in the 1980s. Refinements to the hydrogeologic framework include revision of the regional aquifer names to be more consistent with local names in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, the primary States included in the study area. Other revisions to the framework include characterization of the aquifers of the regional Potomac aquifer system. The regional Potomac aquifer system is subdivided for this report into two regional aquifers. These aquifers include the single Potomac aquifer in Virginia and two aquifers in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, where the Potomac aquifer system thickens within the Salisbury Embayment. The two regional aquifers making up the Potomac aquifer system include the Potomac-Patapsco aquifer and the underlying Potomac-Patuxent aquifer.
The Potomac-Patuxent aquifer includes the Lower Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer in southern New Jersey and the Patuxent aquifers in Delaware and Maryland. In northern New Jersey and on Long Island, New York, the Potomac-Patuxent aquifer is absent, but the Late Cretaceous fluvial-deltaic aquifer that is laterally equivalent with the upper part of the Potomac Formation now is considered part of the regional Potomac-Patapsco aquifer. This aquifer includes the Middle Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer in New Jersey and the Lloyd aquifer on Long Island.
The name “Upper Potomac aquifer” has been removed as part of this regional framework revision. The local aquifer previously considered part of the Upper Potomac aquifer now are part of the regional Magothy aquifer. These units include the Upper Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer in New Jersey, the Magothy aquifers on Long Island, Delaware, and Maryland, and the Virginia Beach aquifer in Virginia.
Updates to the regional hydrologic budget include revised estimates of aquifer recharge, water use and streamflow data. Inflow to the aquifer system of about 20,000 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) includes 19,600 Mgal/d from recharge from precipitation, 200 Mgal/d of recharge from wastewater via onsite domestic septic systems, and 200 Mgal/d from the release of water from aquifer storage. Outflow from the aquifer system includes groundwater discharge to streams (11,900 Mgal/d), groundwater withdrawals (1,500 Mgal/d), and groundwater discharge to coastal waters (6,600 Mgal/d). A numerical modeling analysis is required to improve this hydrologic budget calculation and to forecast future changes in water levels and aquifer storage caused by groundwater withdrawals, land-use changes, and the effects of climate variability and change.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology and hydrologic conditions of the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain aquifer system from Long Island, New York, to North Carolina