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Groundwater Research & Analysis

HRPDC and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have jointly funded many groundwater programs and projects for the Hampton Roads Region. These efforts support the sound management of groundwater resources in the Virginia Coastal Plain through data collection and the development of appropriate analysis tools. HRPDC-USGS cooperative programs and studies are summarized below. This page also includes a list of groundwater management issues and related resources.

GROUNDWATER WITHDRAWAL PERMITS

Large groundwater withdrawals in the Coastal Plain are permitted by DEQ. The agency has acknowledged that the current permitted withdrawal amounts are not sustainable and will slowly reduce groundwater levels. The following reports document changes in permits across the shared aquifer.

HRPDC-USGS COOPERATIVE STUDIES

Land Subsidence and Relative Sea-Level Rise in the Southern Chesapeake Bay Region (USGS Circular 1392)

This study explains how land subsidence and rising water levels combine to cause relative sea-level rise in the southern Chesapeake Bay region. According to the study, “Data indicate that land subsidence has been responsible for more than half the relative sea-level rise measured in the region.”

Simulation of Groundwater Flow in the Coastal Plain Aquifer System of Virginia (USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5039)

The Virginia Coastal Plain Groundwater Model was developed to provide a better tool to understand the groundwater resource through simulation of groundwater withdrawals, drought, and saltwater intrusion. Read more in the article titled “A New Groundwater Model on p. 18 of the Winter 2010 publication of the American Water Works Association, Virginia Section Magazine, Tap Into Virginia.

The Virginia Coastal Plain Hydrogeologic Framework (USGS Professional Paper 1731)

This study provides a refined description of the aquifer system of the Virginia Coastal Plain and presents a hydrogeologic framework for ground-water investigation and a new perspective on the regional ground-water system by incorporating information from studies of the Chesapeake Bay impact crater.

Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater

Approximately 35 million years ago, a large comet or meteorite crashed into the shallow waters of the Atlantic Ocean near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The force of the collision dramatically disrupted the existing geology and formed a large regional anomaly that changed existing rock formations, sediment accumulation patterns, compaction forces, and groundwater movement. Studies have been completed to help understand the physical features of the Chesapeake Bay impact crater and the relationship to eastern Virginia’s groundwater system.

USGS Professional Paper 1622 (2000):

USGS Professional Paper 1612 (1999):

Groundwater-Quality Data and Regional Trends in the Virginia Coastal Plain, 1906–2007 (USGS Professional Paper 1772)

The study provides an updated regional characterization of groundwater quality to facilitate effective resource management and planning. This effort consolidated groundwater quality data from USGS, DEQ, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). Water quality data was evaluated with respect to the revised hydrogeologic framework and the associated groundwater flow model developed by the USGS.

Private Domestic-Well Characteristics and the Distribution of Domestic Withdrawals among Aquifers in the Virginia Coastal Plain (USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5250)

A significant portion of the population of southeastern Virginia relies on private wells to supply water for household consumption and other uses. A comprehensive analysis of private domestic well withdrawals was conducted, and study results indicate that the overall magnitude of these withdrawals and effects on regional groundwater flow are more important than previously estimated. Private well withdrawals for domestic use in the Coastal Plain are approximately 40 million gallons per day, or about 28 percent of all ground-water withdrawals in the area.

GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT ISSUES

International Paper Franklin Mill Closure

The International Paper Mill historically was the largest user of groundwater in the region. Several reports and presentations have documented the impact of the paper mill’s withdrawal as it has decreased then increased with changes in operation.

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