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Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5042

Prepared in cooperation with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Department of Conservation and Recreation

Effects of Water Use and Land Use on Streamflow and Aquatic Habitat in the Sudbury and Assabet River Basins, Massachusetts

By Phillip J. Zarriello, Gene W. Parker, David S. Armstrong, and Carl S. Carlson

ABSTRACT

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Water withdrawals from surface-water reservoirs and groundwater have affected streamflow in the Sudbury and Assabet River Basins. These effects are particularly evident in the upper Sudbury River Basin, which prompted the need to improve the understanding of water resources and aquatic habitat in these basins. In 2004, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, developed a precipitation-runoff model that uses Hydrologic Simulation Program–FORTRAN (HSPF) to evaluate the effects of water use and projected future water-use and land-use change on streamflow. As part of this study, the aquatic habitat in the basins and the effects of streamflow alteration also were evaluated.

Chapter 1 of the report covers the development of the HSPF model that focuses on the upper Sudbury River Basin (106 square miles) but covers the entire Sudbury and Assabet River Basins (339 square miles). The model was calibrated to an 11-year period (1993–2003) using observed or estimated streamflow at four streamgages. The model was then used to simulate long-term (1960–2004) streamflows to evaluate the effects of average 1993–2003 water use and projected 2030 water-use and land-use change over long-term climatic conditions. Simulations indicate that the average 1993–2003 withdrawals most altered streamflow relative to no withdrawals in small headwater subbasins where the ratios of mean annual withdrawals to mean annual streamflow are the highest. The effects of withdrawals are also appreciable in other parts of the upper Sudbury River Basin as a result of the perpetuation of the effects of large withdrawals in upstream reaches or in subbasins that also have a high ratio of withdrawal to streamflow. The simulated effects of potential 2030 water-use and land-use change indicate small decreases in flows as a result of increased water demands, but these flow alterations were offset as a result of decreased evapotranspiration associated with the loss of deep-rooted vegetation. Simulations of reactivating production wells near the north end of Lake Cochituate indicate pumping could substantially affect lake levels and flows at the lake outlet or in nearby reaches in the Sudbury River during periods of low flow, but the effects vary depending on the source of the water to the wells, which is largely unknown.

Chapter 2 of the report covers the fish-community assessment and comparison of streamflow-setting standards for protecting aquatic habitat. The fish-community assessment indicates the main stems of the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers are dominated by macrohabitat generalists. Water temperatures recorded in seven free-flowing reaches in the upper Sudbury River Basin at three sites unaffected by withdrawals or impoundments are generally suitable for cold-water fish; however, summer temperatures often rose to a level considered critical to long-term survival of brook trout. At four sites downstream from withdrawals or reservoirs, or both, summer water temperatures were often in the upper critical range for brook trout survival.

Physically and statistically based methods for determining streamflows for protecting aquatic habitat were applied at 10 selected riffle sites in the Sudbury and Assabet River Basins. Physically based methods, R2Cross and Wetted-Perimeter, use site-specific physical and hydraulic information and a one-dimensional hydraulics model, HEC-RAS, to determine flows that meet the criteria set forth by the method. The median flow that meets 2-of-3 of the R2Cross hydraulic criteria (percentage of bankfull wetted perimeter, average velocity, and mean depth) ranged from about 0.07 to 0.72 cubic feet per second per square mile (ft3/s/mi2) with an overall median of about 0.24 ft3/s/mi2; the median Wetted-Perimeter target flow ranged from about 0.10 to 0.51 ft3/s/mi2 with an overall median of about 0.25 ft3/s/mi2. Statistically based methods—Tennant, New England Aquatic Base Flow (ABF), and the Range-of-Variability Approach (RVA)—utilized HSPF simulated long-term streamflow (1960–2004) with no withdrawals to determine target flows or the monthly streamflow variability. The Tennant 30-percent of the mean annual flow (QMA) ranged from about 0.56 to 0.61 ft3/s/mi2 with an overall median of 0.58 ft3/s/mi2; the ABF low-flow target ranged from about 0.14 to 0.62 ft3/s/mi2 with an overall median of 0.32 ft3/s/mi2. The frequency and duration target flows were not met were evaluated using HSPF simulated flows with and without water withdrawals. The median annual duration and total number of days flows were below the target were about three times greater for statistically based standards (Tennant 30 QMA and ABF) than for physically based targets (Wetted-Perimeter and R2Cross 2-of-3 criteria). Overall, physically based target flows were slightly more sensitive to flow alterations than the statistically based target flows.

First posted August 12, 2010

For additional information contact:
Director, Massachsetts-Rhode Island Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
10 Bearfoot Drive
Northborough, MA 01532
http://ma.water.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Zarriello, P.J., Parker, G.W., Armstrong, D.S., and Carlson, C.S., 2010, Effects of water use and land use on streamflow and aquatic habitat in the Sudbury and Assabet River Basins, Massachusetts: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5042, 160 p. (Also available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5042/.)


Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Description of the Sudbury and Assabet River Basins

Population

Climate

Surface-Water Resources and Streamflow

Topography

Surficial Geology

Wetlands

Land use

Water Withdrawals and Wastewater Returns

Stream Habitat

Previous Studies

Acknowledgments

References Cited

Chapter 1-Simulated Effects of Water Use, and Projected Water-Use and Land-Use Change on Streamflow with a Precipitation-Runoff Model

Purpose and Scope

Time-Series Data

Climate

Water Withdrawals and Wastewater Returns

Streamflow

Precipitation-Runoff Model

Functional Description of the HSPF Model

Representation of the Basin

Development of Hydrologic Response Units

Impervious Areas (IMPLNDs)

Pervious Areas (PERLNDs)

Stream Reaches (RCHRES)

Hydraulic Characteristics (FTABLEs)

Lakes and Impoundments

Wetlands

Water Withdrawals and Wastewater Returns

Model Calibration

Sudbury River at Ashland

Sudbury River at Saxonville

Assabet River at Maynard

Nashoba Brook near Acton

Hydrologic Flow Components and Water Budgets

Sensitivity Analysis

Model Uncertainty and Limitations

Simulated Effects of Water Use and Land Use on Streamflow

Effects of Current Water Use on Streamflow

Effects of Groundwater and Surface-Water Withdrawals on Streamflow

Effects of Potential Water- and Land-Use Change on Streamflow

Potential Effects of Reactivating Production Wells near Lake Cochituate

Summary

References Cited

Chapter 2-Fish Communities, Stream Temperature, and Assessment of Minimum Streamflow Targets for Aquatic Habitat at Selected Sites in the Sudbury and Assabet River Basins, Massachusetts

Purpose and Scope

Fish Communities

Main-Stem River Fish Communities

Cold-Water Fishery Resources

Stream Temperature

Determination and Assessment of Target Streamflows for Aquatic Habitat at 10 Riffle Sites

Physically Based Streamflow Targets

Whitehall Brook near Hopkinton

Sudbury River near Hopkinton

Sudbury River near Ashland

Indian Brook near Hopkinton

Indian Brook near Ashland

Baiting Brook near Framingham

Assabet River near Westborough

Danforth Brook at Hudson

Fort Meadow Brook near Hudson

Elizabeth Brook near Stow

Statistically Based Streamflow Targets

Tennant Method

New England Aquatic Base Flow Method (ABF)

Range of Variability Approach (RVA)

Comparison of Computed Target Flows

Frequency and Duration Streamflows were below Target Flows

Summary

References Cited

Appendix 1. Partial Listing of the Hydrologic Simulation Program–FORTRAN (HSPF) Model Run File (uci)

Appendix 2. Calibration of a One-Dimensional Channel Hydraulic Model (HEC-RAS) used to Determine Physically Based Target Flows at Six Riffle Reaches in the Sudbury River Basin

Water-Surface-Profile Model

Whitehall Brook near Hopkinton

Sudbury River near Hopkinton

Sudbury River near Ashland

Indian Brook near Hopkinton

Indian Brook near Ashland

Baiting Brook near Framingham

Appendix 3. Indicators of Hydrologic Alterations (IHA) Computed from Long-Term (1960–2004) Daily Streamflows Simulated with the Hydrologic Simulation Program–FORTRAN (HSPF) without Withdrawals (NOWU) at 10 Riffle Reaches in the Sudbury and Assabet River Basins

Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration (IHA) Statistics

References Cited

Appendix 4. Duration and Frequency Long-Term (1960–2004) Daily Streamflow Simulated with the Hydrologic Simulation Program–FORTRAN (HSPF) with (AVGWU) and without (NOWU) Withdrawals were below Target Flows Determined by Six Standard-Setting Methods at 10 Riffle Sites in the Sudbury and Assabet River Basins

Frequency and Duration Simulated Streamflows were below Target Flows

References Cited



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