In 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, began a study of the hydrogeology of the West Branch Delaware River (Cannonsville Reservoir) watershed. There has been recent interest by energy companies in developing the natural gas reserves that are trapped within the Marcellus Shale, which is part of the Hamilton Group of Devonian age that underlies all the West Branch Delaware River Basin. Knowing the extent and thickness of stratified-drift (sand and gravel) aquifers within this basin can help State and Federal regulatory agencies evaluate any effects on these aquifers that gas-well drilling might produce. This report describes the hydrogeology of the 455-square-mile basin in the southwestern Catskill Mountain region of southeastern New York and includes a detailed surficial geologic map of the basin. Analysis of surficial geologic data indicates that the most widespread surficial geologic unit within the basin is till, which is present as deposits of ablation till in major stream valleys and as thick deposits of lodgment till that fill upland basins. Till and colluvium (remobilized till) cover about 89 percent of the West Branch Delaware River Basin, whereas stratified drift (outwash and ice-contact deposits) and alluvium account for 8.9 percent. The Cannonsville Reservoir occupies about 1.9 percent of the basin area. Large areas of outwash and ice-contact deposits occupy the West Branch Delaware River valley along its entire length. These deposits form a stratified-drift aquifer that ranges in thickness from 40 to 50 feet (ft) in the upper West Branch Delaware River valley, from 70 to 140 ft in the middle West Branch Delaware River valley, and from 60 to 70 ft in the lower West Branch Delaware River valley. The gas-bearing Marcellus Shale underlies the entire West Branch Delaware River Basin and ranges in thickness from 600 to 650 ft along the northern divide of the basin to 750 ft thick along the southern divide. The depth to the top of the Marcellus Shale ranges from 3,240 ft along the northern basin divide to 4,150 ft along the southern basin divide. Yields of wells completed in the aquifer are as high as 500 gallons per minute (gal/min). Springs from fractured sandstone bedrock are an important source of domestic and small municipal water supplies in the West Branch Delaware River Basin and elsewhere in Delaware County. The average yield of 178 springs in Delaware County is 8.5 gal/min with a median yield of 3 gal/min. An analysis of two low-flow statistics indicates that groundwater contributions from fractured bedrock compose a significant part of the base flow of the West Branch Delaware River and its tributaries.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology of the West Branch Delaware River basin, Delaware County, New York