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New York Water Science Center

Detailed Aquifer Mapping Program in Upstate New York


Location of aquifers mapped by the U.S. Geological Survey

In 1980 the U.S. Geological Survey began a Detailed Aquifer Mapping Program in upstate New York, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), funded by the USEPA's Underground Injection Control Program. The objective of this program was to define the hydrogeology of 21 extensively used (primary) stratified-drift aquifers in upstate New York, and to present the information as individual sets of maps at 1:24,000 scale. Each published report from this program describes the hydrogeology of a specific aquifer or segment of aquifer, and depicts selected hydrogeologic characteristics. The number of maps varies among reports, depending upon the amount of hydrogeologic data that was available for each area studied. Eleven of these primary aquifers were mapped by the USGS under the cooperative program with NYSDOH, and four were mapped by a consulting firm under contract with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with the resulting reports published by the USGS. By 1983, 15 of these 21 primary aquifers had been mapped and the results published by the USGS, in addition to two summary atlases.

In order to continue this USGS program, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in 1983 became the main cooperating agency, with the immediate objective being to define the hydrogeology of the remaining 6 primary aquifers. By 2002, reports covering the remaining six primary aquifers were published by the USGS.

In 1987, the focus of the Detailed Aquifer Mapping Program shifted to define the hydrogeology of eight additional significant (principal) aquifers in New York. As before, the reports resulting from this project each consisted of a set of 1:24,000-scale (or larger) maps that described the hydrogeology of a specific aquifer, and depicted well and test-hole locations, surficial geology, bedrock-surface altitude, geologic sections, altitude of the water table or potentiometric surface, saturated thickness of the aquifer, and estimated well yields. The number of maps varied among the reports, depending upon the amount of hydrogeologic data available for each study area. As of 2013, a total of 35 reports, plus 2 summary atlases, have been published (or are in review) from the Detailed Aquifer Mapping Program since its inception in 1980. In addition, seven other related reports, funded in cooperation with other agencies but displaying hydrogeologic information in 1:24,000 scale map format, were published by the USGS from 1984-2000 and effectively increase the number of aquifers mapped in upstate New York to 42. These reports form the foundation of NYSDEC's wellhead protection program in upstate New York, inasmuch as NYSDEC has proposed that mapped aquifer boundaries "...serve as the fundamental delineation of wellhead protection areas..," in New York State (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 1990).

Although all of the identified primary aquifers and many of the principal aquifers in New York State have been mapped, there still exists a need within the NYSDEC Division of Water programs to have interpreted hydrogeologic data available in map format for the many principal aquifers that serve substantial populations with both publicly- and privately-supplied groundwater. This data, in published reports, supports many regulatory activities in NYSDEC’s Division of Water including delineation of ground water contributing areas, assessing potential threats to the aquifer from both point and non-point sources, responding to contaminant spills or leaks from underground fuel storage facilities, providing information to assess the need to permit new or expanded public water supplies, and providing hydrogeologic information with which to assess high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) permit applications. Since 1980, these aquifer map reports have provided critical hydrogeologic information for programs within NYSDEC’s Divisions of Environmental Remediation, Mineral Resources, and Environmental Permits, and NYSDEC has indicated a clear need for the continued hydrogeologic assessment of principal aquifers within upstate New York.


In 2006, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the USGS cooperatively funded a Brownfield and Groundwater GIS project as required by 2003 legislation that established a Brownfield Cleanup Program (NYS Assembly Bill 9120). The NYSDEC developed an implementation plan for the Brownfield and Groundwater project, and one action identified in that plan was the development of GIS datasets of aquifer maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey Detailed Aquifer Mapping Program. For this project, the aquifer boundaries for 34 previously published aquifer reports were evaluated, adjusted to include adjacent stratified-drift deposits, georeferenced, and digitized to produce GIS datasets. In addition, the surficial geologic maps from these 34 reports were evaluated, standardized in terms of geologic unit notation, and also digitized to produce GIS datasets.


The long-term objective of this program is to continue the hydrogeologic assessment and mapping of selected principal aquifers within upstate New York. The selection of new aquifers remains flexible, to respond to changing program needs within the NYSDEC Division of Water. Aquifer mapping reports produced though this program are now electronically released as Web-only products, rather than as printed paper copies. Electronic (digital) publishing makes release of completed aquifer maps more timely and at a reduced cost over conventionally printed maps. Digital release of the maps using the new interactive Terrago PDF viewer (for example, see Heisig (2012) at provides a highly versatile and usable product. Future reports will be released as a Web-only document and (or) as a limited number of CD-ROMs, and associated GIS datasets will be made available though the New York State GIS Clearinghouse.


The USGS Detailed Aquifer Mapping Program continues to advance the knowledge of the regional hydrologeology by providing State, county, and local water resource managers with a summary of the hydrogeology of selected stratified-drift (ie; principal) aquifers within New York State. The availability of detailed aquifer maps at 1:24,000 in an electronic format serves to support many groundwater resource activities within the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Health Department, as well as County and municipal governments seeking information to protect their local groundwater resources. At the Federal level, these reports are used in many U.S. Environmental Protection Agency programs that deal with groundwater contamination of valley-fill aquifers in upstate New York. Finally, the reports from this ongoing program provide valuable information on the hydrogeology of selected stratified-drift aquifers in New York State for the general public and contribute to the body of literature concerning the study of stratified-drift aquifers in the glaciated northeast.

Published Reports

Summary Reports
Related Reports

For more information, contact:
Rich Reynolds
(518) 285-5677

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