Water-level conditions in the confined aquifers of the New Jersey Coastal Plain, 2008

Scientific Investigations Report 2013-5232
Prepared in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
By:  and 

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Abstract

Groundwater-level altitudes in 10 confined aquifers of the New Jersey Coastal Plain were measured and evaluated to provide an overview of regional groundwater conditions during fall 2008. Water levels were measured in more than 900 wells in New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and northern Delaware and potentiometric surface maps prepared for the confined Cohansey aquifer of Cape May County, the Rio Grande water-bearing zone, the Atlantic City 800-foot sand, the Piney Point, Vincentown, and the Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifers, the Englishtown aquifer system, and the Upper, Middle, and Lower aquifers of the Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer system. In 2008, the highest water-level altitudes were observed in the Vincentown aquifer (median, 78 ft) and the lowest in the Atlantic City 800-foot sand (median, -45 ft). Persistent, regionally extensive cones of depression were present within the potentiometric surfaces of the Englishtown aquifer system in east-central New Jersey, the Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer in east-central and southern New Jersey, the Upper, Middle, and Lower Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifers in southern New Jersey, and the Atlantic City 800-foot sand in the southeastern part of the State. Cones of depression in the potentiometric surfaces of the Upper Potomac-Raritan-Magothy and the Piney Point aquifers in east-central and southwestern New Jersey had broadened and deepened since 2003.

Declining water levels in many of New Jersey’s confined Coastal Plain aquifers intensified during the late 1970s and early 1980s, prompting the designation of two water-supply Critical Areas by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; Critical Areas 1 and 2 continued to be of concern. To address that concern, water-level changes were assessed in nearly 800 wells measured during the fall of 2003 and 2008, and potentiometric-surface difference maps for each aquifer were constructed and evaluated. In addition, water-level trends were calculated for 77 wells for the periods 2003–8 and 1998–2008 and for 73 wells for the period 1978–2008.

From 2003 to 2008 small to moderate water-level changes were observed in many Coastal Plain aquifers in New Jersey, but in places, groundwater levels continued to decline substantially as a result of pumping. Groundwater levels in the Atlantic City 800-foot sand were lower in 2008 than in 2003; declines were greatest near pumping centers in eastern Atlantic County. Changes were less pronounced in Cape May County where water levels were, on average, 1 to 3 feet (ft) lower than those during the previous study (2003), except near Rio Grande where a localized cone of depression had formed as a result of increased withdrawals. Large and widespread declines occurred in the Piney Point aquifer in Cumberland County where water levels in and around the city of Bridgeton had fallen in excess of 100 ft since 2003, and by 30 ft to more than 60 ft in surrounding areas. Groundwater levels in the Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer and Englishtown aquifer system continued to recover in east-central New Jersey; however, groundwater levels in the Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer throughout the southern part of the State continued to decline.

In the Upper Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer, groundwater levels were substantially lower than in 2003 in parts of northern Ocean County but were stable in the area adjacent to Raritan Bay (Critical Area 1), and water levels continued to recover in southern New Jersey. In the Middle Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer, water levels rose near Raritan Bay in Middlesex County; however, modest declines were recorded in interior areas of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Groundwater levels in both the Middle and Lower Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifers were stable or rising within the regional cone of depression in Critical Area 2; beyond the critical area in southern New Jersey, however, water levels were slightly lower than in 2003.

Analyses of long-term water-level changes indicate that from 1978 to 2008 downward trends occurred at 20 wells (27 percent), upward trends at 27 wells (37 percent), and trends at 26 wells (36 percent) were insubstantial. Sustained, long-term declines were observed most often at wells within the Atlantic City 800-foot sand and at wells in the Piney Point aquifer in southern New Jersey, in which rates of decline were as great as 1.4 feet/year. Upward water-level trends were observed frequently at wells screened in the Englishtown aquifer system and the Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer in Critical Area 1 in east-central New Jersey, and in the Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer system in parts of Critical Area 1 and throughout most of Critical Area 2 in southern New Jersey. Annual rates of upward change were as great as 3.9 and 5.6 ft/yr in the Englishtown aquifer system and Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer, respectively. Among the units of the Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer system, annual rates of recovery were greatest in the Lower aquifer.

From 1998 to 2008, downward water-level trends were observed at 22 wells (29 percent), upward trends were observed at 21 wells (27 percent), and insubstantial trends at 34 wells (44 percent). Downward trends were detected most often at wells open to the Piney Point aquifer and the Atlantic City 800-foot sand. Upward water-level trends were most frequent in wells open to the Englishtown aquifer system in Critical Area 1 and in wells within the Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer system in southern New Jersey.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Water-level conditions in the confined aquifers of the New Jersey Coastal Plain, 2008
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2013-5232
DOI 10.3133/sir20135232
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) New Jersey Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 107 p.; 9 Plates: 34 inches x 44 inches or smaller
Country United States
State New Jersey
Other Geospatial Coastal Plain
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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