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Simulation of groundwater flow in the aquifer system of the Anacostia River and surrounding watersheds, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia

March 19, 2021

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the District Department of Energy & Environment, Water Quality Division, is investigating the hydrogeology of the tidal Anacostia River watershed within Washington, D.C., with the goal of improving understanding of the groundwater-flow system and the interaction of groundwater and surface water in the watershed. To help meet this goal, a three-dimensional steady-state groundwater-flow model for the Anacostia River and surrounding watersheds in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia was constructed. The goal of the modeling study was to quantify the rate and pattern of groundwater flow to the tidal Anacostia River. The model domain includes weathered and unweathered rocks of the Piedmont Physiographic Province and the southeast-dipping sediments of the Atlantic Coastal Plain Physiographic Province. The model includes processes of recharge, evapotranspiration, withdrawals from wells, and base flow to streams, rivers, and tidal waters. Final model calibration was achieved by using the objective parameter estimation and sensitivity analysis capabilities of UCODE_2005. Simulated gradients in the surficial aquifer in the vicinity of the tidal Anacostia River indicate that flow is predominantly toward the river, with changes in the magnitude and direction of the gradients from the northeast, where the Anacostia River enters Washington, D.C., to the southwest, toward the confluence with the tidal Potomac River. Flow paths to the tidal Anacostia River from the north are largely horizontal through the surficial aquifer and Patuxent aquifer. From the south, the flow paths toward the river originate in the elevated topographic areas southeast of the river and pass through the surficial aquifer and Patapsco confining unit, lower Patapsco aquifer/Arundel Clay, and to some extent, the Patuxent aquifer. Groundwater-flow rates to and from the tidal rivers (Potomac and Anacostia) are generally greatest near the land-water boundary, where the gradient in the water table is greatest, and diminish toward the middle of the tidal river channels. The tidal rivers are predominantly areas of groundwater discharge, although there are areas where tidal waters are recharging the subsurface, typically where small variations or depressions in the topography produce small locally reversed gradients in the water table. Substantial recharge of tidal waters to the groundwater system is observed for the tidal Potomac where the upper Patapsco aquifer subcrops south of Washington, D.C. Water budget calculations indicate that inflows to the groundwater system beneath the tidal Anacostia River are predominantly from the land area of Washington, D.C., followed by tidal surface water and flows from lower layers. Outflows are largely to the tidal Anacostia River, with a smaller part going to the land area underlying Washington, D.C.

Publication Year 2021
Title Simulation of groundwater flow in the aquifer system of the Anacostia River and surrounding watersheds, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia
DOI 10.3133/sir20135225
Authors Jeff P. Raffensperger, Lois M. Voronin, Cheryl A. Dieter
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2013-5225
Index ID sir20135225
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Jersey Water Science Center; Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Water Science Center