Fact Sheet 080-03

August 2003

Morgan Creek Watershed Selected for a National Water-Quality Study

The PDF for the report is 785 kb

Table of Contents


The Morgan Creek watershed on the Delmarva Peninsula is one of five watersh...

At a typical study site, several methods are used to collect water and chem...


Data Collection in the Morgan Creek Watershed, 2003–2004

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is studying five watersheds across the Nation to better understand how natural factors and agricultural management practices (AMPs) affect the transport of water and chemicals. Natural factors include climate and landscape (soil type, topography, geology), and AMPs include practices related to tillage, irrigation, and chemical application. The study approach is similar in each watershed so that we can compare and contrast the results and more accurately predict conditions in other agricultural settings.

Map of study area

The Morgan Creek watershed on the Delmarva Peninsula is one of five watersheds selected by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program for a special study of agricultural chemicals and water quality.

Study objectives

Why study the Morgan Creek watershed?

Morgan Creek and the other four watersheds represent nationally important agricultural settings (chemical use, crops, and AMPs) and natural settings (climate, geology, topography, and soils). Morgan Creek, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, is representative of corn and soybean row cropping in the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Other features relevant to this study:

Cross section of a typical study site

At a typical study site, several methods are used to collect water and chemical samples from the air, soil, surface water, and ground water. After being applied to the land surface, agricultural chemicals can move upward into the atmosphere, downward through the soil to shallow ground water and underlying aquifers, eventually discharging to streams, or run off across the land into streams, eventually moving downstream to reservoirs and coastal waters. This process can take days, weeks, or even decades if water moves underground through the ground-water system.

Data Collection in the Morgan Creek Watershed, 2003–2004

What kind of data Why the data are collected How often
Meteorological data, including rainfall, wind speed, solar radiation, and air temperature. Soil temperature and moisture To determine amount of precipitation and how much water from land surface reaches the water table, how much is lost to evapotranspiration Continuously for 2 years
Amount of streamflow at Morgan Creek near Kennedyville, MD, gaging station To interpret water-quality data correctly (the amount of water in streams affects chemical concentrations) Continuously since 1951 (real-time data available at
Quality of stream water, runoff water, rain water1 To quantify the transport and behavior of natural and agricultural chemicals Several times a year (>14 samples) for 2 years, with intensive sampling during application season
Ground-water levels in wells To determine direction of ground-water flow, which affects transport of chemicals At least quarterly in some wells, continuously in others for at least 1 year
Quality of ground water, soil water, and shallow water in and around streambed/riparian zone1 To quantify the transport and behavior of natural and agricultural chemicals At least quarterly for 1 year
Quality of sediment in streambed and soils in agricultural fields1 To quantify the storage, behavior, and transport of water and chemicals in the soils and sediment At least once during study

1In this study, water-quality and sediment-quality data include concentrations of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous), pesticides and pesticide breakdown products, and natural constituents and properties, including major ions (calcium, magnesium, chloride, etc.), organic carbon, dissolved oxygen, and temperature.

We appreciate your help

We are working with local growers and land owners to gain access to study sites. We also need information about the watershed and about current as well as historical agricultural management practices—past practices also affect concentrations of agricultural chemicals in ground and surface water.

We will report the findings of the study in public meetings and in publications. These findings will provide information that will be useful for improving agricultural management locally and nationally, and will guide future studies in other watersheds.

We would like to thank

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

Maryland Dept. of Agriculture, Kent County Soil Conservation District

University of Maryland Cooperative Extension, Kent County office

For more information

Tracy Hancock, Lead Scientist, Morgan Creek study (804) 261-2618,

Paul Capel, Team Leader, National study (612) 625-3082,

Judy Denver, Project Chief, Potomac-Delmarva NAWQA study unit (302) 734-2506 ext 229

NAWQA Program

The USGS provides reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

Document Accessibility: Adobe Systems Incorporated has information about PDFs and the visually impaired. This information provides tools to help make PDF files accessible. These tools convert Adobe PDF documents into HTML or ASCII text, which then can be read by a number of common screen-reading programs that synthesize text as audible speech. In addition, an accessible version of Acrobat Reader 6.0, which contains support for screen readers, is available. These tools and the accessible reader may be obtained free from Adobe at Adobe Access.

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Persistent URL:
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Last modified: Tuesday, November 29 2016, 05:56:47 PM
FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button