Delmarva peninsula waters are running low

August 04, 1999

July 1999 flow rates in eight major streams on the Delmarva Peninsula were only 12-41% of the long-term average July flows for those streams, according to hydrologists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

A new low-flow record was set in Brandywine Creek, where the 67.2 million gallons per day (mgd) was the lowest average daily flow in July since the flow became regulated in 1973 by Marsh Creek Reservoir. [Call to request FAX of data table.] The previous lowest July flow in the Brandywine (since regulation) was 104 mgd in 1986. Of eight major rivers monitored by the USGS on Delmarva, the Christina and Choptank Rivers had proportionally the lowest flows for July 1999: only 12 percent and 18 percent, respectively, of their long-term average flows for July. The Christina, Choptank, and Pocomoke Rivers were all about or less than 3 percent away from setting new low flow records for July. Even the streams least affected by the drought conditions, the St. Jones and the Nanticoke, flowed at only 41 percent of their long-term July averages.

"Since there was very little rain in July, virtually all the flow in the Delmarva's rivers and streams is now coming from ground water seeping into streams," said Dan Soeder, Delaware subdistrict chief for the USGS.

At the same time, "ground-water levels were significantly below average in July, have been falling since April and May, and are continuing to fall in all seven water-table observation wells monitored by the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) in the Atlantic Coastal Plain," said John Talley, Associate Director of the DGS. These observation wells measure water levels in the surficial (unconfined) aquifer. Water levels in the observation well in northern New Castle County have been below average since November 1998.

The lowest ground-water level on record in the observation well near Jefferson's Crossroads in Sussex County was recorded in July. The second lowest ground-water level on record in the well in southern New Castle County near Blackbird State Forest was recorded in July.

Most private wells on the Delmarva Peninsula get their water from the surficial aquifer. The surficial aquifer is also used by farmers for irrigation water. Municipal water supplies for cities like Dover, Milford, and Lewes are obtained from deep, confined aquifers that are less affected by the drought.

Current and potential impacts of these drought conditions include:
Details, real-time streamflow, other state and national drought information, and definitions may be found on the USGS web site

US Geological Survey

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