Water Levels in the Ten Major Confined Aquifers of the New Jersey Coastal Plain

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The Coastal Plain aquifers of New Jersey provide an important source of water for more than 3.5 million people. The USGS, in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, has been measuring water levels in the confined aquifers of the New Jersey Coastal Plain every five years beginning in 1978.  Persistent, regionally extensive cones of depression are present in Ocean and Monmouth Counties in the Englishtown and Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifers; in Camden and Gloucester Counties in the Wenonah-Mount Laurel and Upper, Middle, and Lower Potomac-Raritan-Magothy (PRM) aquifers; and in Atlantic and Cape May Counties in the Atlantic City 800-foot sand. 

The Coastal Plain aquifers of New Jersey provide an important source of water for more than 3.5 million people. In 2013, groundwater withdrawals from the 10 confined aquifers of the New Jersey Coastal Plain totaled almost 190 million gallons per day. 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 many confined Coastal Plain aquifers.

Recording groundwater levels

USGS Scientist Robert Rossman sketching site information at a production well during water-level-site visit, Camden County.

(Credit: Pam Reilly, USGS. Public domain.)

The USGS, in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, has been mapping the water levels of the major confined Coastal Plain aquifers every 5 years starting in 1978 to provide a regional assessment of groundwater conditions.

Water levels in 10 confined aquifers of the New Jersey Coastal Plain were measured and evaluated to provide a regional overview of groundwater conditions during fall, 2018.  Water levels were measured in almost 1,000 wells in New Jersey, and parts of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Water-level maps are being prepared for, in ascending order of age, confined Cohansey aquifer of Cape May County, Rio Grande water-bearing zone, Atlantic City 800-foot sand, Piney Point aquifer, Vincentown aquifer, Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer, Englishtown aquifer system, and Upper, Middle, and Lower aquifers of the Potomac-Raritan-Magothy (PRM) aquifer system.

Persistent, regionally extensive cones of depression were present in the potentiometric surfaces of the Englishtown aquifer system and Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer in Ocean and Monmouth Counties; Wenonah-Mount Laurel and Upper, Middle, and Lower PRM aquifers in Camden County; and Atlantic City 800-foot sand in Atlantic County.  Changes in water levels from 2013 to 2018 are being evaluated. In some areas, water levels continued to decline as a result of pumping, but in other areas water levels continued to recover as a result of regulated decreases in groundwater withdrawals. From 2008 to 2013 in the Cohansey aquifer in Cape May County, water levels generally did not change; however, cones of depression in the potentiometric surface of the Piney Point aquifer in some areas of Cumberland County deepened by more than 10 feet (ft). In Critical Area 1, an area of restricted withdrawals, measured water levels in the Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer declined in parts of southern Monmouth County by more than 10 ft; however, rises in water levels of more than 10 ft were measured in parts of northern Ocean and Monmouth Counties.  Since 2008 in Critical Area 2, also an area of restricted withdrawals, measured water levels in the Wenonah-Mount Laurel aquifer rose more than 20 ft in parts of western Burlington County and more than 20 ft in parts of western Camden County.  Since 2008, in Critical Area 1, measured water levels in the Englishtown aquifer system declined in parts of eastern Ocean County by more than 10 ft and in southwestern Monmouth County by more than 20 ft; however, rises in water levels of more than 10 ft   were measured in parts of Ocean and Monmouth Counties.

Groundwater tapedown

USGS Scientist Robert Rossman an electric tape to measure static water level in a production well, Burlington County. 

(Credit: Pam Reilly, USGS. Public domain.)

In general, since 2008 in Critical Area 2, in the Upper PRM aquifer, measured water levels continue to rise by 10 ft or more in central and western Burlington and eastern Camden Counties. In the Middle PRM aquifer in Critical Area 2, measured water levels rose in parts of eastern Camden County by 10 ft or more. However, measured water levels in the Lower PRM aquifer in Critical Area 2 were more than 10 ft lower in the center of the cone of depression in central Camden County, but measured water levels continue to rise updip from this area in Critical Area 2.