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Ground-water flow and saline water in the shallow aquifer system of the southern watersheds of Virginia Beach, Virginia

January 1, 2004

Population and tourism continues to grow in Virginia Beach, Virginia, but the supply of freshwater is limited.
A pipeline from Lake Gaston supplies water for northern Virginia Beach, but ground water is widely used to
water lawns in the north, and most southern areas of the city rely solely on ground water. Water from
depths greater than 60 meters generally is too saline to drink. Concentrations of chloride, iron, and manganese
exceed drinking-water standards in some areas. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the city of
Virginia Beach, Department of Public Utilities, investigated the shallow aquifer system of the southern
watersheds to determine the distribution of fresh ground water, its potential uses, and its susceptibility to

Aquifers and confining units of the southern watersheds were delineated and chloride concentrations in the
aquifers and confining units were contoured. A ground-water-flow and solute-transport model of the shallow
aquifer system reached steady state with regard to measured chloride concentrations after 31,550 years of
freshwater recharge. Model simulations indicate that if freshwater is found in permeable sediments of the
Yorktown-Eastover aquifer, such a well field could supply freshwater, possibly for decades, but eventually the
water would become more saline. The rate of saline-water intrusion toward the well field would depend on the
rate of pumping, aquifer properties, and on the proximity of the well field to saline water sources. The
steady-state, ground-water-flow model also was used to simulate drawdowns around two hypothetical well
fields and drawdowns around two hypothetical open-pit mines. The chloride concentrations simulated in the
model did not approximate the measured concentrations for some wells, indicating sites where local
hydrogeologic units or unit properties do not conform to the simple hydrogeology of the model.

The Columbia aquifer, the Yorktown confining unit, and the Yorktown-Eastover aquifer compose the
hydrogeologic units of the shallow aquifer system of Virginia Beach. The Columbia and Yorktown-Eastover
aquifers are poorly confined throughout most of the southern watersheds of Virginia Beach. The
freshwater-to-saline-water distribution probably is in a dynamic equilibrium throughout most of the shallow
aquifer system. Freshwater flows continually down and away from the center of the higher altitudes to mix with
saline water from the tidal rivers, bays, salt marshes, and the Atlantic Ocean. Fresh ground water from the
Columbia aquifer also leaks down through the Yorktown confining unit into the upper half of the Yorktown-Eastover
aquifer and flows within the Yorktown-Eastover above saline water in the lower half of the aquifer. Ground-water
recharge is minimal in much of the southern watersheds because the land surface generally is low and flat.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2003
Title Ground-water flow and saline water in the shallow aquifer system of the southern watersheds of Virginia Beach, Virginia
DOI 10.3133/wri034258
Authors Barry S. Smith
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2003-4258
Index ID wri034258
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization