Suspended-Sediment Characteristics in the Housatonic River Basin, Western Massachusetts and Parts of Eastern New York and Northwestern Connecticut, 1994-1996
Water Resources Investigations Report 00-4059
By Gardner C. Bent
Suspended-sediment concentrations, discharges, loads, and yields were determined for eight subbasins in the Housatonic River Basin in western Massachusetts, eastern New York, and northwestern Connecticut from April 1994 through March 1996. Suspended-sediment samples were collected at three continuous-record sediment stations and at four partial-record sediment stations. Suspended-sediment concentrations in samples collected during the period of study ranged from less than 0.5 to 3,400 milligrams per liter, and concurrent streamflows ranged from 0.03 to 126 cubic feet per second per square mile at the seven stations. Median suspended-sediment concentrations in samples collected at each station ranged from 7 to 61 milligrams per liter. Median streamflows during suspended-sediment sampling ranged from 1.86 to 5.88 cubic feet per second per square mile. Instantaneous suspended-sediment yields ranged from less than 0.005 to 185 tons per day per square mile, and medians ranged from 0.03 to 1.12 tons per day per square mile at the seven stations.
Total suspended-sediment loads (mass) from April 1994 through March 1996 at the continuous-record sediment stations were 11,603 tons at Housatonic River near Great Barrington, 7,929 tons at Green River, and 54,347 tons at Housatonic River near Ashley Falls. Suspended-sediment load during January 1996 at the Green River station accounted for about 54 percent of the total suspended-sediment load for the Green River during the 2-year study. Suspended-sediment load on January 19 and 20, 1996, at the Green River station accounted for about 50 percent of the January 1996 suspended-sediment load, or about 27 percent of the total suspended-sediment load during the 2-year study. This large suspended-sediment transport was the result of rainfall and snowmelt on January 19 and 20, 1996--the equivalent of a 5- to 6-inch rain storm in the Green River subbasin. Total suspended-sediment loads during the 2-year study at the partial-record sediment stations were 3,052 tons at Williams River, 1,758 tons at Ironworks Brook, and 17,927 tons at Konkapot River.
Suspended-sediment yields from April 1994 through March 1996 at the continuous-record sediment stations were 21 (tons/yr)/mi2 at Housatonic River near Great Barrington, 78 (tons/yr)/mi2 at Green River, and 58 (tons/yr)/mi2 at Housatonic River near Ashley Falls. Suspended-sediment yields during the 2- year study at the partial-record sediment stations were 35 (tons/yr)/mi2 at Williams River, 78 (tons/yr)/mi2 at Ironworks Brook, and 147 (tons/yr)/mi2 at Konkapot River. Suspended-sediment yields were estimated for two subbasins in the Housatonic River Basin--Schenob Brook at Sheffield, a partial-record sediment station, and the area adjacent to the Housatonic River between Great Barrington and Ashley Falls. The estimate of suspended-sediment yield at Schenob Brook at Sheffield of 82 (tons/yr)/mi2 is comparable to the yield determined for the Green River and Ironworks Brook. The estimate of suspended-sediment yield for the area adjacent to the Housatonic River between Great Barrington and Ashley Falls was 395 (tons/yr)/mi2. This estimated suspended-sediment yield was 2.7 to 18.8 times greater than that estimated for any of the other subbasins.
Several basin and land-use characteristics thought to affect suspended-sediment transport in the subbasins were compared to the suspended-sediment yields. The characteristics that seemed to affect suspended-sediment discharge were dams, which contributes to decreased yields; Hadley, Limerick, Linlithgo, Saco, and Winooski silt loam soils (high erodibility soils), which contributes to increased yields; stratified-drift deposits, which contributes to increased yields; and agricultural and open land, which contributes to increased yields. The effect of stratified-drift deposits on suspended-sediment discharge is thought to be greater when those deposits are of glaciolacustrine (generally clay, silt, and fine sand), rather than glaciofluvial (clay, silt, sand, gravel, and cobbles) origin. The silt loam soils, glaciolacustrine deposits, and agricultural and open land are interrelated, inasmuch as the silt loam soils generally are associated with glaciolacustrine deposits and agricultural activities.
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