Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Groundwater Sustainability

Note: This study is currently on hold as a result of the lack of funding.

Water-Supply Study Site

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Is groundwater use in Maryland sustainable?

Groundwater supply sustainable yield can be defined as how much water can be withdrawn from an aquifer system, where and for how long, with acceptable physical, economical, environmental, social, cultural, institutional, and legal consequences (Walton and McLane, Groundwater V.51, No. 2, March-April, 2013).

A sustainable supply of clean drinking water is crucial for Maryland's future. Beginning in 2007, studies were initiated to begin to answer the question of acceptable physical (hydraulic) and environmental limits to sustainability. While much has been accomplished, additional research needs to be conducted to protect this vital resource for future generations.


Maryland's groundwater resource (aquifers) are under stress from the cumulative impact of large-scale municipal, irrigation, and industrial wells, in addition to tens of thousands of domestic wells. In some areas of the State current groundwater supplies are inadequate to sustain future water demands.

In 2004, a report by the Governors Advisory Committee on the Management and Protection of the State’s Water Resources ("Wolman" report) recommended a comprehensive study of the sustainability of the aquifer systems in Maryland. In response to this recommendation, the Maryland Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Maryland Department of the Environment, U.S. Geological Survey, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources, initiated comprehensive assessments of the Coastal Plain and fractured rock areas that will provide new scientific information and new data management and analysis tools for the State to use in allocating ground water.

Recent accomplishments

  • Compiled a regional hydrogeological framework for the Coastal Plain Province.
  • Developed science plans for the comprehensive assessment of the Coastal Plain and fractured rock aquifers. The plans include the development of tools to better manage and protect the resource.
  • Constructed an aquifer information system consisting of all of the major aquifers within Maryland's Coastal Plain. The system, currently in use by the Maryland Department of the Environment in permitting groundwater withdrawals, defines the structural and hydraulic framework of the Coastal Plain aquifer system.
  • Evaluated and enhanced monitoring-well networks, our "early-warning system" to over-pumping
  • Measured water levels during the spring and fall of 2012 and 2013 for future use in calibrating a regional groundwater-flow model. Wells measured were from existing well-monitoring networks and wells newly inventoried. The total water-level dataset consisted of 589 wells.

  • Next steps

  • Construct a groundwater-flow model for the Coastal Plain aquifers to assess the cumulative effects of water withdrawals
  • Continue to monitor groundwater levels to warn against over-pumping and to assess the effectiveness of water-use management strategies
  • Fully implement the Coastal Plain and fractured rock science plans to fulfill the goal laid out in the "Wolman" report