Report Shows Potential Groundwater Supplies in Valleys of New York’s Eastern Chemung County

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Areas of sand and gravel in contact with the Chemung River are the most favorable for potential large-scale groundwater supply within the largest valleys of eastern Chemung County, New York, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study. More modest water-supply potential was estimated in the valleys of Newtown, Baldwin, and Wynkoop Creeks.

TROY, N.Y. – Areas of sand and gravel in contact with the Chemung River are the most favorable for potential large-scale groundwater supply within the largest valleys of eastern Chemung County, New York, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study.  More modest water-supply potential was estimated in the valleys of Newtown, Baldwin, and Wynkoop Creeks. 

“Aquifer mapping and a basic understanding of sources of water that replenish the aquifers, along with current water-resource use, was warranted for management and protection of local water resources,” said USGS scientist Paul Heisig, who led the effort.  

The 151 square mile study area includes the drainage areas of the Chemung River and Newtown Creek in eastern Chemung County, New York.  USGS completed the study in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as part of an effort to assess valley-fill aquifers across south-central New York. Delineation of the extent and type of valley-fill aquifers provides a foundation for wellhead protection programs, water-resource management and planning decisions, and groundwater remediation in the study area. 

“We have identified and mapped both confined and unconfined sand and gravel aquifer types in the valleys and described their potential as groundwater sources," Heisig continued. "We have also documented the common occurrence of saltwater in bedrock underlying these aquifers in the Chemung River and Newtown Creek valleys.  Wells that draw in saltwater become unusable.” 

The aquifers that have the highest potential to support large-scale municipal or industrial operations, but are most susceptible to pollution from land use, are “unconfined” aquifers. These aquifers have layers of coarse-grained sediments that readily receive infiltrating rainfall or snowmelt. Pumping water from unconfined aquifers near rivers or large streams may induce streamwater into the aquifer – an additional source of water to wells.

“Confined” aquifers are another aquifer type in the valleys -- those with overlying, fine-grained sediments that are a barrier to direct recharge from rainfall.  Water supply in upland areas is drawn from fractured bedrock aquifers that are best suited for domestic water supply.

The research is part of an ongoing program with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the next area to be mapped is a section of the Susquehanna River valley from the Pennsylvania border to near Binghamton, New York.                                                                                                            

The publication, Heisig, P.M., 2015, Hydrogeology of valley-fill aquifers and adjacent areas in eastern Chemung County, New York: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5092, 19 p. plus appendix and 1 pl., is available online.