Simulated groundwater flow paths, travel time, and advective transport of nitrogen in the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system, Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor Watershed, New Jersey

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5169
Prepared in cooperation with the Barnegat Bay Partnership
By:  and 

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Abstract

Elevated concentrations of nitrogen in groundwater that discharges to surface-water bodies can degrade surface-water quality and habitats in the New Jersey Coastal Plain. An analysis of groundwater flow in the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system and deeper confined aquifers that underlie the Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor (BB-LEH) watershed and estuary was conducted by using groundwater-flow simulation, in conjunction with a particle-tracking routine, to provide estimates of groundwater flow paths and travel times to streams and the BB-LEH estuary.

Water-quality data from the Ambient Groundwater Quality Monitoring Network, a long-term monitoring network of wells distributed throughout New Jersey, were used to estimate the initial nitrogen concentration in recharge for five different land-use classes—agricultural cropland or pasture, agricultural orchard or vineyard, urban non-residential, urban residential, and undeveloped. Land use at the point of recharge within the watershed was determined using a geographic information system (GIS). Flow path starting locations were plotted on land-use maps for 1930, 1973, 1986, 1997, and 2002. Information on the land use at the time and location of recharge, time of travel to the discharge location, and the point of discharge were determined for each simulated flow path. Particle-tracking analysis provided the link from the point of recharge, along the particle flow path, to the point of discharge, and the particle travel time. The travel time of each simulated particle established the recharge year. Land use during the year of recharge was used to define the nitrogen concentration associated with each flow path. The recharge-weighted average nitrogen concentration for all flow paths that discharge to the Toms River upstream from streamflow-gaging station 01408500 or to the BB-LEH estuary was calculated.

Groundwater input into the Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor estuary from two main sources— indirect discharge from base flow to streams that eventually flow into the bay and groundwater discharge directly into the estuary and adjoining coastal wetlands— is summarized by quantity, travel time, and estimated nitrogen concentration. Simulated average groundwater discharge to streams in the watershed that flow into the BB-LEH estuary is approximately 400 million gallons per day. Particle-tracking results indicate that the travel time of 56 percent of this discharge is less than 7 years. Fourteen percent of the groundwater discharge to the streams in the BB-LEH watershed has a travel time of less than 7 years and originates in urban land. Analysis of flow-path simulations indicate that approximately 13 percent of the total groundwater flow through the study area discharges directly to the estuary and adjoining coastal wetlands (approximately 64 million gallons per day). The travel time of 19 percent of this discharge is less than 7 years. Ten percent of this discharge (1 percent of the total groundwater flow through the study area) originates in urban areas and has a travel time of less than 7 years. Groundwater that discharges to the streams that flow into the BB-LEH, in general, has shorter travel times, and a higher percentage of it originates in urban areas than does direct groundwater discharge to the Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor estuary.

The simulated average nitrogen concentration in groundwater that discharges to the Toms River, upstream from streamflow-gaging station 01408500 was computed and compared to summary concentrations determined from analysis of multiple surface-water samples. The nitrogen concentration in groundwater that discharges directly to the estuary and adjoining coastal wetlands is a current data gap. The particle tracking methodology used in this study provides an estimate of this concentration."

Suggested Citation

Voronin, L.M., and Cauller, S.J., 2017, Simulated groundwater flow paths, travel time, and advective transport of nitrogen in the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system, Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor Watershed, New Jersey: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5169, 17 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20165169.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods of Study 
  • Simulated Groundwater Flow Paths, Travel Times, and Transport of Nitrogen 
  • Summary and Conclusions 
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Simulated groundwater flow paths, travel time, and advective transport of nitrogen in the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system, Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor Watershed, New Jersey
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2016-5169
DOI 10.3133/sir20165169
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) New Jersey Water Science Center
Description v, 17 p.
Country United States
State New Jersey
Other Geospatial Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer System
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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