Water in the Delaware River at Trenton, NJ, is a mixture of several types--water from the mountainous headwater region, water from the coal-mining regions, and water from the limestone valleys. The quantities of these types of water, in relation to the total quantity of water at Trenton, vary with changes in season and reservoir releases.
The chemical quality of the water during the 17-year period 1945-61 was excellent, and the water was suitable for most uses after little or no treatment. The average concentration of dissolved solids was 86 ppm (parts per million), and 90 percent of the time it ranged from 57 to 126 ppm. Usually the pH of the water was close to 7.0 (considered to be a neutral point-neither acid nor alkaline). The hardness was less than 86 ppm 95 percent of the time. The general composition of the dissolved-solids content, in terms of equivalents, is 28 percent calcium, 14 percent magnesium, 8 percent sodium plus potassium, 43 percent bicarbonate plus sulfate, 5 percent chloride, and 2 percent nitrate. Concentrations of minerals in the river water are lowest during March, April and May (median concentration of dissolved solids 66 PPM) and are highest during August and September (median, 107 PPM).
Each year an average of 880,000 tons of dissolved solids and 932,000 tons of suspended solids are carried past Trenton by the Delaware River. The greatest monthly loads of dissolved solids are in March and April, and the smallest are from July to October. Suspended-solids loads are greater when the streamflow is high but small the rest of the time. Concentration of suspended solids exceeds 100 PPM only 5 percent of the time.
The headwaters in the Delaware River basin are the source of water of excellent quality. Much of this water is stored in reservoirs, and when released during August and September, it improves the quality of the water at Trenton. These releases to augment low flow have the effect of narrowing the range of concentrations of dissolved constituents. In 1952 and 1962, 6 and 19 percent, respectively, of the drainage area above Trenton was regulated by reservoirs. After proposed construction, 60 percent will be regulated by 1975. Thus, it may be that the high concentrations of dissolved constituents observed in the 1945-61 period will not occur again.
It is possible that the water quality observed during the period 1945-61 (dissolved solids 57-126 PPM 90 percent of the time, pH close to 7.0, hardness less than 86 PPM 95 percent of the time) is representative of what can be expected in the future, for a variety of hydrologic conditions were experienced in the 17-year period.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Quality of Delaware River water at Trenton, New Jersey