Hydrogeology and hydrogeologic terranes of the Blue Ridge and Piedmont Physiographic Provinces in the eastern United States

Hydrologic Atlas 732-B

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Severe and prolonged droughts between 1961 and 1988, combined with increased demands for freshwater supplies in the United States, have resulted in a critical need to assess the potential for development of ground- and surface-water supplies. Rapid industrial growth and urban expansion have caused existing freshwater supplies to be used at or near maximum capacity. Begun in 1978, the Regional Aquifer-System Analysis (RASA) Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is a systematic effort to study a number of the Nation's most important aquifer systems, which, in aggregate, underlie much of the country and represent an important component of the Nation's total water supply. The broad objective for each of the 28 studies in the program is to assemble geologic, hydrologic, and geochemical information, to analyze and develop an understanding of the system, and to develop predictive capabilities that will contribute to the effective management of the system.

In 1988, as part of the RASA Program, the USGS began a 6-year study of the ground-water resources of parts of 11 States in the Eastern United States (Swain and others, 1991). The study was designated the Appalachian Valley and Piedmont Regional Aquifer-System Analysis (APRASA). The APRASA team investigated ground-water resources primarily in the unglaciated part of the Valley and Ridge, the Blue Ridge, the New England, and the Piedmont Physiographic Provinces (fig. 1). For the purposes of this report, the small area in the New England Physiographic Province that is within the study area in New Jersey and Pennsylvania was considered part of the Piedmont Physiographic Province. The results of the APRASA are contained in about 50 reports and abstracts, including reports on simulation of ground-water flow in three type areas, this atlas, and chapters in Professional Paper 1422. These chapters include the summary (Chapter A), descriptions of recharge rates and surface- and ground-water relations (Chapter B), hydrogeologic terranes in the Valley and Ridge Physiographic Province (Chapter C), and ground-water geochemistry (Chapter D).

The purposes of this atlas are to summarize the hydrogeology, to describe an analysis of maps and well records, and to present a classification and map of the hydrogeologic terranes of the Blue Ridge and Piedmont Physiographic Provinces within the APRASA study area. Hydrogeologic terranes are defined for this atlas as regionally mappable areas characterized by similar water-yielding properties of a grouping of selected rock types. The hydrogeologic terranes represent areas of distinct hydrologic character. The terranes are intended to help water users locate and develop adequate water supplies and to help hydrologists interpret the regional hydrogeology.

Previous investigations provide maps and descriptions of the geologic units, describe the local quantity and quality of ground water within these units, and establish the statistical methods for comparing the water-yielding properties of these units. State geologic maps show the distribution of geologic units at a scale of 1:500,000 for Alabama (Osborne and others, 1989), Georgia (Lawton and others, 1976), North Carolina (Brown and Parker, 1985), and Virginia (Calver and Hobbs, 1963). State maps show geologic units at a scale of 1:250,000 for Maryland (Cleaves and others, 1968), New Jersey (Lewis and Kummel, 1912), Pennsylvania (Berg and others, 1980), South Carolina (Overstreet and Bell, 1965), Tennessee (Hardeman, 1966), and West Virginia (Cardwell and others, 1968). Quadrangle geologic maps show geologic units at a scale of 1:24,000 for parts of Delaware within the APRASA area (Woodruff and Thompson, 1972, 1975). Many reports have been published describing the groundwater resources of a county, parts of a county, multi-county areas, or river basins.

The statistical methods used in this atlas are based largely on those used by Helsel and Hirsch (1992) and by Knopman (1990, p. 7-9). In her analysis of well records in the USGS Ground-Water Site Inventory (GWSI) data base, Knopman (1990) ranked factors that must be taken into account when assessing the water-yielding potential of the rocks in the Valley and Ridge, the Blue Ridge, and the Piedmont Physiographic Provinces in Pennsylvania. Readers are referred to Helsel and Hirsch (1992) and Knopman (1990) for details regarding statistical methods.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology and hydrogeologic terranes of the Blue Ridge and Piedmont Physiographic Provinces in the eastern United States
Series title:
Hydrologic Atlas
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
41.00 x 34.00 inches
United States
Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia