Digital Bedrock Aquifer Characteristics by Physiographic Section of Pennsylvania



In 2001, the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey (the Bureau) released the Digital Bedrock Geology of Pennsylvania. This dataset was based on Map 1, Geologic Map of Pennsylvania, by T. M. Berg and others. 

In 2004, the Bureau released Water Resource Report 69 (W69), Hydrogeologic and Well-Construction Characteristics of the Rocks of Pennsylvania by Gary M. Fleeger, Thomas A. McElroy, and Michael E. Moore. This report is mainly a Microsoft Access database, which can be purchased from the Bureau. These aquifer characteristics data are from selected water wells that could be field verified.

The digital aquifer characteristics dataset provides selected water-well construction and groundwater statistics for bedrock geologic units by the 23 physiographic sections of Pennsylvania, as shown on the Bureau’s Map 13. The dataset represents a derivative product of the two datasets mentioned above. Namely, it is a merger of the digital bedrock geology dataset and selected water well and groundwater data from W69. The derivative data are available for downloading below in “geodatabase” and shapefile formats. Files containing metadata (information about the datasets and how they were prepared) are included within the files.

The datasets were partitioned based on an unpublished dataset of the physiographic sections of the state. In the compilation process, the digital bedrock geology layer was clipped to the boundaries of each physiographic section. Because the physiographic boundaries were based on topography only, they tend to separate small portions of geologic formations that occur predominantly in certain physiographic sections. In W69, a few physiographic section boundaries had been modified to coincide with the boundaries of some geologic units. Therefore, some geologic units clipped by physiographic section are “missing” from the W69 summaries for a particular physiographic section. In the current dataset, the source of the data (that is, the physiographic section) from W69 is indicated to clarify this. Most often, slivers of polygons in one section are assigned data from an adjacent physiographic section where that unit predominantly occurs. Geologic formations that are small in areal extent and have no information were included but were not assigned any aquifer characteristics.

The groundwater data are water-well statistics for most geologic units in the state and include the following parameters:

  • well depth (feet below ground surface)
  • casing length (feet including any extension above the ground surface)
  • static water level (feet below ground surface)
  • well yield (gallons per minute)
  • specific capacity (gallons per minute per foot of drawdown)
  • water-bearing zones (in 50-foot depth intervals)

For the first five parameters, statistical summaries include number of water-well records, minimum and maximum values, and 10th, 25th, 50th (median), 75th, and 90th percentiles of values. Tallies of water-bearing zones and their densities by depth intervals are added as well.

See the metadata for more information. In addition, users will benefit from reading background information on the datasets contained in W69 and the state’s digital bedrock geology.

W69 was based on approximately 50,000 water wells. The areal distribution of the wells is an important factor in determining the amount of confidence to place in the information. The density of water wells per geologic unit along with the water wells locations are provided so that the user can judge data representativeness. In some areas, wells occur at a concentration of less than one per 100 mi2 so limited confidence in data representativeness should be given. In other areas with more information, geologic units legitimately exhibit a natural amount of variance in their data values; here the statistical data should be considered more reliable.

We welcome feedback from users regarding these datasets. Please contact Stuart Reese with your comments, recommendations, and suggestions.

 Downloading and Viewing the Datasets

After downloading the files, please read the distribution liability statement located in the metadata. Metadata files are incorporated into every shapefile and geodatabase feature class. To download, select either the compressed file for the entire state (geodatabase or shapefiles) or select specific physiographic sections (shapefiles).

The datasets cannot be viewed with a web browser. They must be used with a GIS software program that is capable of importing shapefiles or ESRI geodatabase files. Free software for viewing shapefiles may be obtained from the ESRI web site.

The files have been compressed to limit the time needed for downloading. The compressed files have a “.zip” extension after their names. You will need an “unzipping” tool or utility to successfully extract the information. Sizes of the statewide compressed files are listed below. Sizes of the compressed files for the physiographic sections are all less than 15 MB.

The dataset files do not contain color tables or map explanations. However, colors and symbols for the map units by physiographic section may be assigned by the user through available symbology styles. For detailed information on the geologic units, see the digital bedrock geology page.

Datasets for Entire State

ESRI geodatabase for the entire state: (47.6 MB). Contains the following file when uncompressed:

  • ESRI geodatabase with feature classes of W69 locations of water wells (points) and digital aquifer characteristics (polygons) for each physiographic section (46 feature classes - 74.5 MB)

Shapefiles for the entire state (46.6 MB). Contains the following shapefiles when uncompressed:

  • two shapefiles, W69 locations of water wells (points) and digital aquifer characteristics (polygons), for each physiographic section (46 shapefiles, 322 individual files - 76.3 MB)

Datasets by Physiographic Sections

Download the shapefiles using the map or list below by selecting the desired section.


Physiographic Provinces of Pa.

This is an interactive map. Click on an area of the map to download shapefiles of the digital aquifer characteristics for that section, or see the list below.


Physiographic Provinces and Sections

Atlantic Coastal Plain ProvinceNew England Province
Lowland and Intermediate Upland SectionReading Prong Section
Piedmont ProvinceAppalachian Plateaus Province
Piedmont Upland SectionGlaciated Pocono Plateau Section
Piedmont Lowland SectionGlaciated Low Plateau Section
Gettysburg-Newark Lowland SectionGlaciated High Plateau Section
Ridge and Valley ProvinceAllegheny Front Section
South Mountain SectionAllegheny Mountain Section
Great Valley SectionDeep Valleys Section
Blue Mountain SectionPittsburgh Low Plateau Section
Anthracite Upland SectionWaynesburg Hills Section
Anthracite Valley SectionHigh Plateau Section
Appalachian Mountain SectionNorthwestern Glaciated Plateau Section
Susquehanna Lowland SectionCentral Lowland Province
 Eastern Lake Section

 Glaciated Low Plateau SectionGettysburg-Newark Lowland SectionEastern Lake SectionNorthwestern Glaciated Plateau SectionLowland and Intermediate Upland SectionPiedmont Upland SectionWaynesburg Hills SectionPiedmont Lowland SectionReading Prong SectionSouth Mountain SectionGlaciated Pocono Plateau SectionGreat Valley SectionAnthracite Valley SectionBlue Mountain SectionHigh Plateau SectionAllegheny Front SectionAllegheny Mountain SectionPittsburgh Low Plateau SectionAppalachian Mountain SectionSusquehanna Lowland SectionAnthracite Upland SectionDeep Valleys SectionGlaciated High Plateau SectionGlaciated High Plateau SectionGlaciated High Plateau SectionGlaciated High Plateau Section