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  • Todd Giddings, Ph.D., P.G.

Potentially Stressed Area Designation

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), in its 2005 Groundwater Management Plan, showed Potentially Stressed Areas on this map on page 18. Potentially Stressed Area 1, labelled the State College Area, is the Spring Creek Watershed. The following text is an excerpt from page 20 that explains the reasons behind this Potentially Stressed Area (PSA) Designation by the SRBC.

"State College Area. This PSA includes most of the Spring Creek Watershed and some of the headwaters of the Spruce Creek Watershed. The area is served by one of the largest regional karst carbonate aquifers in Pennsylvania. The PSA status for the State College area is a result of several factors:

• The State College area is undergoing rapid growth. The area has been growing for several decades, but the nature of the growth has changed from residential and industrial to dominantly residential, educational, and commercial, with a more diverse employment base. The new growth pattern has created stormwater and impervious cover issues.

• The area includes several groundwater contamination sites. As a result, groundwater in some areas is unusable without expensive treatment.

• The mining of high calcium limestone at the foot of the mountains has removed portions of the karst aquifer that previously collected runoff from the mountain slopes. The mine dewatering at some of the quarries has resulted in aquifer dewatering and stream perching.

• Municipal water is currently drawn from several widely scattered well fields located in headwater areas, but is discharged from a single wastewater treatment plant located downstream. This results in the loss of flow in headwater areas upstream of the treated wastewater discharge. Also, some of the water is being withdrawn from the headwaters of the Spruce Creek Watershed, and that water is discharged to the Spring Creek Watershed. This has resulted in diminishedflow, and the loss of perennial flow in streams and springs in the Spruce Creek headwaters. The “Living Filter” project, developed by the Pennsylvania State University, utilizes the natural filtration and recharge capability of native soils to return treated wastewater to the regional carbonate aquifer. Similar facilities distributed in the headwaters of the Spring Creek and Spruce Creek Watersheds would help restore natural stream and spring flow in the headwaters areas.

• Municipal well fields contain multiple high capacity wells. These are generally located on fracture traces, which often coincide with stream valleys. The fracture traces are desirable sites for high capacity wells because of the intensive karst conduit development along them. The streams in these valleys have naturally gaining and loosing reaches, their behavior often varying seasonally. The drawdown from the municipal wells interacts with the natural flow system, causing additional loosing reaches, increased flow loss, and additional instream sinkholes."

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