National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program

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Regional Assessment of Groundwater Quality in
the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Aquifer System

Map showing the locaiton of the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Aquifer System.Water quality is being assessed for the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain (NACP) aquifer system as a part of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. The NACP aquifer system covers about 50,000 square miles extending from the North Carolina-South Carolina border northward to Long Island, New York. The aquifer system is bounded on the west by the Fall Line, which separates the Piedmont and Coastal Plain Physiographic Provinces, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. The NACP aquifer system consists of six regional aquifers in primarily unconsolidated sedimentary deposits that vary texturally both laterally and vertically and form aquifers of varying extent. These aquifers are composed of sand, gravel, and limestone and are separated by confining units of silt and clay. A large amount of water (over 2,000 million gallon per day) is withdrawn from the NACP aquifer system for drinking water supplies, most of which is extracted from the surficial aquifer or where confined aquifers outcrop or subcrop along the Fall Line near large metropolitan areas.

Topics selected for the assessment of water quality:

  • Natural and human influences on shallow ground-water quality (SIR 2008-5190)
  • Transport and transformations of contaminants along ground-water flow paths in hydrogeologic settings (JEQ Vol. 39 No. 1, p. 154-167)
  • Chemical quality of domestic- and public-ground-water supplies
  • Use of conservative mixing models to evaluate contributions from multiple aquifers to Coastal Plain streams (JAWRA 2012)

Featured Publications
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  • Nitrate may affect the potability of untreated groundwater in some areas of the surficial aquifer of the NACP. Areas particularly vulnerable to nitrate contamination include agricultural areas underlain by coarse-grained sands and gravels with oxygen rich ground-water conditions. In coastal areas of the NACP, with poorly drained sediments and oxygen-poor conditions (anoxic water), nitrate contamination risks are lower. (Download report)

General Information

Informational handout about the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Aquifer System Study (PDF format, approx size)

NAWQA study units in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Aquifer System:
  • The Potomac River Basin and Delmarva Peninsula (PODL)
  • The Albemarle-Pamlico Drainage (ALBE)
  • Long Island-New Jersey Coastal Drainages (LINJ)
  • Delaware River Basin (DELR)

Detailed information on the hydrogeology of the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Aquifer System can be accessed through the USGS Ground Water Atlas of the U.S.

Investigating Sources, Transport, and Fate of Agricultural Chemicals

The USGS is conducting studies in several important agricultural settings around the Nation as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA). The Morgan Creek watershed in Kent County, Maryland is a study site representing corn and soy row cropping in a Coastal Plain environment. Results help scientists understand how current agricultural management practices and natural features, such as riparian buffers, affect the transport of chemicals and aquatic health in this watershed and to the ground-water system. These results are also be applicable to understanding processes in other Coastal Plain settings with similar physical features and land-use practices.

Morgan Creek Watershed Selected for a National Water-Quality Study (Fact Sheet 080-03 || OFR 2006-1151)

Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey on Sources, Transport, and Fate of Agricultural Chemicals (Fact Sheet 2004-3098)

For more information, contact: Judith Denver, Hydrologist

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