The purpose of this report is to appraise and evaluate the groundwater resources of a tri-state region adjacent to the lower Delaware River that is centered around Philadelphia, Pa., and Camden, N. J., and includes Wilmington, Del., and Trenton, N.J. Specifically, the region includes New Castle County, Del.; Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Mercer, and Salem Counties in New Jersey; and Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties in Pennsylvania.
The peculiar advantages of ground water, such as its availability in many places without the necessity for expensive pipelines and its relatively uniform temperature and quality, make it an especially valuable resource in an industrial area. Large, readily available supplies of good, fresh water have contributed substantially to the recent rapid industrial growth of the lower Delaware River basin and will be vital to its continued prosperity. The major part of these supplies is drawn from the streams passing through the region, but very large quantities of ground water also are used.
The region is divided almost equally by the Fall Line, which extends in a southwesterly direction along the general course of the Delaware River from Trenton, N.J., to Wilmington, Del., and beyond. Northwest of the Fall Line is a region of consolidated rocks in which ground water occurs mainly in cracks, crevices, and openings created or enlarged by weathering. The capacity of the various geologic formations to yield water depends largely upon the degree to which they have been fractured and weathered. The yield of individual wells in this part of the region is generally small to moderate and not readily predictable. Ground water in this part of the region is generally low in dissolved minerals and suitable for many uses without treatment.
Southeast of the Fall Line lie the unconsolidated rocks of the Coastal Plain. Ground water occurs in these rocks largely in the pore spaces between the individual mineral grains. The major formations and the principal aquifers are rather uniform in their water-bearing characteristics over large areas. The yield of individual wells is moderate to very large and may be predicted with a reasonable degree of assurance. Sufficient quantities of ground water are available in most places for all ordinary purposes. The chemical quality of the ground water from the Coastal Plain aquifers is generally acceptable for most uses, but objectionable quantities of iron or other minerals are found in some places, and some waters have a low pH and are corrosive.
More than 40 distinct geologic formations occur in the region. They range in age from Precambrian to Recent. Nearly all will yield some water to wells. However, only about a dozen yield water freely enough to be considered major aquifers. Of these, the sands of the Raritan and Magothy formations have been developed most intensively, and the Cohansey sand appears to have the greatest capacity for additional development.
The present withdrawal of ground water in the region is estimated to average more than 200 mgd, of which more than half is drawn from the aquifers in the Raritan and Magothy formations. It is estimated that additional supplies of ground water, aggregating more than 1 billion gallons a day, can be developed within the region. Furthermore, substantial additional quantities can be developed outside the region for use within it if the need should ever arise.
Induced recharge from the Delaware River supplies a substantial portion of the total water drawn from the Raritan and Magothy formations. In some areas, the quality of the water from these aquifers is approaching that of the river. Increased withdrawals of water from wells along the river will tend to increase induced recharge. Thus, the maintenance of a good quality of water in the river, which is desirable for many other reasons, is imperative if the quality of the ground-water supply is to be maintained.
The proposed deepening of the Delaware River channel from Philadelphia to Trenton will greatly increase the opportunity for the interchange of water between the river and the adjacent aquifers. Whether this will be beneficial or detrimental to the ground-water supplies will depend upon the quality of the water in that reach of the river. If an acceptable quality of river water is maintained, the groundwater resources of the region will be augmented. If salt water from the ocean or excessive contamination from other sources should render the river water undesirable as a source of recharge, actual and potential ground-water supplies aggregating about 250 mgd would be endangered.
The danger of salt-water encroachment into the aquifers normally yielding fresh water may limit the optimum yield of some of the most important aquifers in the region. Encroachment may come either from salt water in the surface-water bodies of the region or from parts of the aquifers, normally containing salt water. The protection of ground-water supplies against salt-water encroachment can be maintained only by constant vigilance, careful distribution of the pumping from the aquifers, regular sampling of outpost wells in exposed localities, and adjustment of rates of pumping in the light of changing conditions.
The maximum beneficial utilization of the ground-water resources cannot be accomplished in haphazard fashion. It must be planned and controlled on the basis of sound, current information about the hydrology of the various aquifers. Continued and, in some areas, intensified investigations of the ground-water resources of the region should form the basis for such planning and control.