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Hydrogeology and Simulated Effects of Ground-Water Withdrawals in the Big River Area, Rhode Island

By GREGORY E. GRANATO, PAUL M. BARLOW, and DAVID C. DICKERMAN

Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4222

 

ABSTRACT

The Rhode Island Water Resources Board is considering expanded use of ground-water resources from the Big River area because increasing water demands in Rhode Island may exceed the capacity of current sources. This report describes the hydrology of the area and numerical simulation models that were used to examine effects of ground-water withdrawals during 1964–98 and to describe potential effects of different withdrawal scenarios in the area.

The Big River study area covers 35.7 square miles (mi2) and includes three primary surface-water drainage basins–the Mishnock River Basin above Route 3, the Big River Basin, and the Carr River Basin, which is a tributary to the Big River. The principal aquifer (referred to as the surficial aquifer) in the study area, which is defined as the area of stratified deposits with a saturated thickness estimated to be 10 feet or greater, covers an area of 10.9 mi2. On average, an estimated 75 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) of water flows through the study area and about 70 ft3/s flows out of the area as streamflow in either the Big River (about 63 ft3/s) or the Mishnock River (about 7 ft3/s). Numerical simulation models are used to describe the hydrology of the area under simulated predevelopment conditions, conditions during 1964–98, and conditions that might occur in 14 hypothetical ground-water withdrawal scenarios with total ground-water withdrawal rates in the area that range from 2 to 11 million gallons per day. Streamflow depletion caused by these hypothetical ground-water withdrawals is calculated by comparison with simulated flows for the predevelopment conditions, which are identical to simulated conditions during the 1964–98 period but without withdrawals at public-supply wells and wastewater recharge. Interpretation of numerical simulation results indicates that the three basins in the study area are in fact a single ground-water resource. For example, the Carr River Basin above Capwell Mill Pond is naturally losing water to the Mishnock River Basin. Withdrawals in the Carr River Basin can deplete streamflows in the Mishnock River Basin. Withdrawals in the Mishnock River Basin deplete streamflows in the Big River Basin and can intercept water flowing to the Flat River Reservoir North of Hill Farm Road in Coventry, Rhode Island. Withdrawals in the Big River Basin can deplete streamflows in the western unnamed tributary to the Carr River, but do not deplete streamflows in the Mishnock River Basin or in the Carr River upstream of Capwell Mill Pond. Because withdrawals deplete streamflows in the study area, the total amount of ground water that may be withdrawn for public supply depends on the minimum allowable streamflow criterion that is applied for each basin.

CONTENTS

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Location and Physiography

Previous Studies and Data Networks

Acknowledgments

Hydrogeology

Hydrogeologic Units

Water-Supply Wells

Ground-Water Levels and Flow

Surface-Water Levels and Streamflow

Water Quality

Hydrologic Components and Budget

Inflow Components

Outflow Components

Hydrologic Budget

Development of Steady-State and Transient Numerical Models

Steady-State Model

Spatial Discretization

Hydrologic Boundary Conditions and Stresses

Hydraulic Conductivity

Calibration

Transient Model

Temporal Discretization and Initial Conditions

Storage Properties of Aquifer

Hydrologic BoundaryConditions and Stresses

Calibration

Simulated Effects of Ground-Water Withdrawals

Predevelopment Conditions

Conditions for 1964–98

Hypothetical Ground-Water Withdrawal Scenarios

Summary and Conclusions

References

PLATE

[in black pocket]

1. Estimated altitude and configuration of the water table in the Big River Area, Rhode Island.

FIGURES

1, 2. Maps showing:

1. Location of the Big River study area, distribution of stratified sand-and-gravel deposits, and the boundary of the Big River Management Area, Rhode Island

2. Location of U.S. Geological Survey continuous streamflow-gaging stations, observation wells, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatological station used to estimate hydrologic conditions in the Big River study area, 1964–98

3. Graph showing record of total monthly precipitation and distribution of monthly precipitation measurements for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatological station 14266, Kingston, Rhode Island, 1964–98

4. Map showing location of selected partial-record streamflow-gaging stations, observation wells, and streambed piezometers used to collect hydrologic data to develop and calibrate simulation models of the Big River study area

5–12. Graphs showing:

5. Water-level altitude measurements and the average of water-level altitudes measured in selected wells in the Big River study area, 1996–98

6. Record of monthly water-level altitudes and distribution of water-level altitudes recorded at wells (A) EXW 6, (B) SNW 6, and (C) COW 411, Big River study area, 1964–98

7. Water-level altitude measurements and the average of water-level altitudes measured in selected streambed piezometers in the Big River study area, 1996–98

8. Water-level altitude measurements and the average of water-level altitudes measured at selected ponds in the Big River study area, 1996–98

9. Paired surface-water-level altitudes and ground-water-level altitudes measured at selected streambed piezometers on the (A) Big River, (B) the Mishnock River, and (C) the Nooseneck River, 1997–98

10. Record of daily streamflow and boxplot of streamflow statistics at gaging stations on the (A) Hunt River, (B) Pawcatuck River, (C) Wood River, (D) Nipmuc River, (E) Nooseneck River, and (F) Carr River, 1964–98

11. Estimated long-term average monthly streamflow at the Nooseneck River, Carr River, and Big River partial-record gaging stations compared to average monthly flows for the 1964–79 period of record for the Nooseneck River and Carr River gaging stations and an area-weighted estimate for the Big River from continuous-gage records at the Nooseneck River and Carr River tributaries

12. Distribution of specific conductance measurements in samples of ground water and surface water in the Big River study area, 1996–99

13. Map showing spatial extent of the hydrologic-budget area, active area of simulation model, specified stream-inflow locations, and location of model-calculated streamflows out of the Big River study area

14. Diagram of the sources and sinks of water along the boundaries of the numerical models of the Big River study area

15. Graph showing distributions of annual and monthly recharge estimated from streamflow records for the Hunt River near East Greenwich, Rhode Island, 1964–98

16. Map showing grid and boundary conditions of the active model cells for the simulation model of the Big River study area

17. Schematic section showing active model cells and model layers for the simulation model of the Big River study area

18. Map showing model-calculated steady-state water table, Big River study area

19–21. Graphs showing:

19. Distribution of differences between estimates of average monthly water levels during 1964–98 and model-calculated water levels, in feet, at the 21 well sites used for model calibration in the Big River study area

20. Estimated average monthly and model-calculated streamflows at six partial-record streamflow-gaging stations within the Big River study area

21. Model-calculated steady-state streamflows and streamflow depletions for the 1964–98 period in the (A) Congdon and Big Rivers, (B) Carr River, (C) western unnamed tributary to the Carr River, (D) Mishnock River, and (E) Old Hickory Brook

22, 23. Maps showing:

22. Model-calculated steady-state contributing areas for Lake Mishnock and for public- water-supply wells KC01 and KC02 for simulated conditions during 1964–98

23. Location of current and hypothetical ground-water-development sites and streamflow sites selected for examination of streamflow depletion in the Big River study area

24–30. Graphs showing:

24. Model-calculated steady-state streamflow depletion at the Lake Mishnock outfall, Mishnock River Basin (at Route 3), Carr River above Capwell Mill Pond, and the Big River Basin (at Hill Farm Road) for conditions during 1964–98 and 14 withdrawal scenarios, Big River study area

25. Total model-calculated steady-state streamflow depletion for the Mishnock River Basin (at Route 3), and the Big River Basin (at Hill Farm Road) for conditions during 1964–98 and 14 withdrawal scenarios, Big River study area

26. Model-calculated monthly average August streamflow at the Lake Mishnock outfall, the Mishnock River at Route 3, the Carr River above Capwell Mill Pond, and the Big River at Hill Farm Road for the predevelopment conditions, conditions during 1964–98, and 14 withdrawal scenarios, Big River study area

27. Model-calculated steady-state streamflows and streamflow depletions in scenarios 9A and 9B for the (A) western unnamed tributary to the Carr River, and (B) Old Hickory Brook

28. Model-calculated steady-state streamflows and streamflow depletions for scenario 10 in the (A) Congdon and Big Rivers, (B) Carr River, (C) western unnamed tributary to the Carr River, (D) Mishnock River, and (E) Old Hickory Brook

29. Estimated monthly average and model-calculated ground-water altitudes at 21 observation wells within the Big River study area

30. Model-calculated monthly average streamflow at the Lake Mishnock outfall, the Mishnock River at Route 3, the Carr River above Capwell Mill Pond, and the Big River at Hill Farm Road for the predevelopment conditions, conditions during 1964–98, and 14 withdrawal scenarios, Big River study area

TABLES

1. Summary of monthly withdrawals from public water-supply wells in the Mishnock River Valley of the Big River study area, Rhode Island, 1964–98

2. Continuous-record streamflow-gaging stations and summary statistics used to estimate long-term average streamflows in the Big River study area

3. Partial-record streamflow-gaging stations, streamflow statistics during the study period (1996–98), and estimates of associated streamflow statistics during the simulation period (1964–98) in the Big River study area

4. Estimated average annual hydrologic budget for the Big River model area, 1964–98

5. Model-calculated steady-state water-level altitudes, statistical estimates of long-term mean water-level altitudes, and measured water-level altitudes in August 1998 and December 1997 at observation wells in the Big River study area

6. Model-calculated steady-state streamflows and statistical estimates of long-term average streamflow at partial-record stations in the Big River study area

7. Model-calculated steady-state average annual hydrologic budget for the Big River study area

8. Model-calculated steady-state and transient average annual hydrologic budgets for the Big River study area

9. Model-calculated hydrologic budget for predevelopment and conditions for 1964–98 in the Big River study area

10. Hypothetical ground-water withdrawal scenarios in the Big River study area

11. Estimated aquatic base flow, 7-day 10-year low flow, and model-calculated transient streamflows for August for withdrawal scenario evaluation in the Big River study area



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The citation for this report, in USGS format, is as follows:

Granato, G.E., Barlow, P.M., Dickerman, D.C., 2003, Hydrogeology and Simulated Effects of Ground-Water Withdrawals in the Big River Area, Rhode Island: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4222, 76 p.


 For more information about USGS activities in Massachusetts-Rhode Island District, visit the USGS Massachusetts-Rhode Island Home Page.




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