The Coastal Plain aquifers of New Jersey provide an important source of water for more than 2 million people. Steadily increasing withdrawals from the late 1800s to the early 1990s resulted in declining water levels and the formation of regional cones of depression. In addition to decreasing water supplies, declining water levels in the confined aquifers have led to reversals in natural hydraulic gradients that have, in some areas, induced the flow of saline water from surface-water bodies and adjacent aquifers to freshwater aquifers. In 1978, the U.S. Geological Survey began mapping the potentiometric surfaces of the major confined aquifers of New Jersey every 5 years in order to provide a regional assessment of ground-water conditions in multiple Coastal Plain aquifers concurrently. In 1988, mapping of selected potentiometric surfaces was extended into Delaware.
During the fall of 2003, water levels measured in 967 wells in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, northeastern Delaware, and northwestern Maryland were used estimate the potentiometric surface of the principal confined aquifers in the Coastal Plain of New Jersey and five equivalent aquifers in Delaware. Potentiometric-surface maps and hydrogeologic sections were prepared for the confined Cohansey aquifer of Cape May County, the Rio Grande water-bearing zone, the Atlantic City 800-foot sand, the Vincentown aquifer, and the Englishtown aquifer system in New Jersey, as well as for the Piney Point aquifer, the Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer, and the Upper Potomac-Raritan-Magothy, the Middle and undifferentiated Potomac-Raritan-Magothy, and the Lower Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifers in New Jersey and their equivalents in Delaware.
From 1998 to 2003, water levels in many Coastal Plain aquifers in New Jersey remained stable or had recovered, but in some areas, water levels continued to decline as a result of pumping. In the Cohansey aquifer in Cape May County, water levels near the center of the cone of depression underlying the southern part of the peninsula remained about the same as in 1998. To the south, recoveries up to 8 feet were observed in southern Lower Township as withdrawals had decreased since 1998. In the northern part of Cape May County, water levels had not changed substantially from historic conditions. In the Rio Grande water-bearing zone, water levels rose by as much as 13 ft at the Rio Grande well field; elsewhere across the aquifer, little change had occurred.
In the Atlantic City 800-foot sand, water-level changes were greatest in southern Cape May County; at the Cape May desalination wells, water levels were as much as 32 ft lower in 2003 than in 1998. In contrast, water levels at the center of a regional cone of depression near Atlantic City rose by as much as 10 ft. Within the Piney Point aquifer water levels rose by 46 ft near Seaside Park. Similarly, water levels increased by more than 30 ft in and around the major cone of depression underlying Dover, Delaware. In the Vincentown aquifer, water levels stabilized or recovered by 2 ft to 6 ft from 1998 to 2003 in most of the wells measured; the exception is near Adelphia in Monmouth County, where water levels rose by as much as 18 ft.
From 1998 to 2003, water levels near the center of a large cone of depression that extends from Monmouth to Ocean County recovered by as much as 20 ft in the Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer. Concurrently, ground-water levels within the Englishtown aquifer system declined by as much as 13 ft in the same area. Water levels across much of the Upper Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer in the northern Coastal Plain remained about the same as 5 years previous, except in northern Ocean County where ground-water levels declined 10 ft to 33 ft. Water levels in the Middle Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer declined from 5 to 9 ft along the border between Monmouth and Middlesex County. Elsewhere, across the northern part of the Coastal Plain, water levels stabilized within the Cretaceous-a