Groundwater Protection

The DNREC Groundwater Protection Branch oversees groundwater protection efforts, the Source Water Assessment and Protection Program, and the Wellhead Protection Program.

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Matthew T. Grabowski
Branch Manager

The hydrologists and environmental scientists of the branch provide technical expertise needed to protect the groundwater resources of Delaware. They perform regulatory review, resource assessment, database quality control, and public education.

Groundwater Protection Program

This program is responsible for providing technical review of permit applications for non-hazardous waste sites (large septic, wastewater spray irrigation, sludge application) and for water well permit applications where wells are located near problem sites. Staff hydrologists also conduct investigations based on public complaints of groundwater quality, often associated with domestic water wells. In addition, this program oversees the Coastal Sussex Saltwater Monitoring Network and the Potomac Aquifer Saltwater Monitoring Network which monitor sensitive coastal aquifers for saltwater intrusion.

Overall groundwater quality is evaluated annually as part of the Delaware Watershed Assessment Reports published by the Division of Watershed Stewardship.

In 1999 the U.S. EPA endorsed the Delaware Comprehensive State Groundwater Protection Program (CSGWPP) which provides a description of groundwater resource protection and assessment throughout Delaware. It also provides a framework for better focus and coordination across multiple groundwater protection programs. Technical staff of the groundwater protection program participate in the Delaware Whole Basin Initiative to assure incorporation of groundwater resources in each of the 4 Delaware basins – Piedmont, Chesapeake, Inland Bays/Atlantic Ocean, and Delaware Bay.

Staff hydrologists also occasionally provide presentations to educate the public and regulated community on Delaware geology, hydrology, and regulatory programs.

Source Water Assessment and Protection Program

The Source Water Assessment and Protection Program provides for the assessment and protection of sources of public drinking water, both surface and ground water. The assessment consists of these critical steps:

  • Delineation of source water areas
  • Identification of existing and potential sources of contamination
  • Determining the susceptibility of the source water area to contamination
  • Reporting the results of the assessment to the public

The Delaware Environmental Navigator (DEN) identifies the location and status of both existing and potential sources of contamination within the State. Most potential point sources have been mapped and rated with their potential to contaminate surface water, groundwater, soil, sediment, and air.

Wellhead Protection Plan

The Delaware Wellhead Protection Plan, approved by EPA in 1990, delineated wellhead protection areas around public water supply wells and set out steps needed to protect critical wellhead areas around these wells. Some of these are handled as part of the department’s regulatory programs. Others, including Wellhead Protection Area Delineation, Contaminant Source Identification, and public participation, are part of the Source Water Assessment and Protection Program.