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Monitoring our water

June 6, 2012 — Scientists are digging for answers about the amount and quality of water available underground in central Delaware, where ongoing development will put increasing demands on water supplies in the coming decade.

The Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) is installing 7,700 feet of wells at eight sites in southern New Castle and northern Kent counties to improve groundwater-monitoring efforts, supported by a $600,000 grant from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, and populations there are projected to continue expanding.

“In response to that, water use is going to at least double in the next 20 years,” DGS Senior Scientist Scott Andres said. “Having a good monitoring infrastructure for groundwater is necessary for determining trends and making projections for the future of the water supply.”

Andres and colleagues from UD, DNREC and the U.S. Geological Survey are constructing the wells from Middletown to Townsend and extracting samples of sediment, called “cores,” to analyze sediment features. Andres expects to find some potentially harmful substances like radon and arsenic and help determine whether they pose a public health concern.