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Evaluation of Strategies for Balancing Water Use and Streamflow Reductions in the Upper Charles River Basin, Eastern Massachusetts

By Jack R. Eggleston

Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4330

ABSTRACT

The upper Charles River basin, located 30 miles southwest of Boston, Massachusetts, is experiencing water shortages during the summer. Towns in the basin have instituted water-conservation programs and water-use bans to reduce summertime water use. During July through October, streamflow in the Charles River and its tributaries regularly falls below 0.50 cubic foot per second per square mile, the minimum streamflow used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as its Aquatic Base Flow standard for maintaining healthy freshwater ecosystems.

To examine how human water use could be changed to mitigate these water shortages, a numerical ground-water flow model was modified and used in conjunction with response coefficients and optimization techniques. Streamflows at 10 locations on the Charles River and its tributaries were determined under various water-use scenarios and climatic conditions. A variety of engineered solutions to the water shortages were examined for their ability to increase water supplies and summertime streamflows.

Results indicate that although human water use contributes to the problem of low summertime streamflows, human water use is not the only, or even the primary, cause of low flows in the basin. The lowest summertime streamflows increase by 12 percent but remain below the Aquatic Base Flow standard when all public water-supply pumpage and wastewater flows in the basin are eliminated in a simulation under average climatic conditions. Under dry climatic conditions, the same measures increase the lowest average monthly streamflow by 95 percent but do not increase it above the Aquatic Base Flow standard.

The most promising water-management strategies to increase streamflows and water supplies, based on the study results, include wastewater recharge to the aquifer, altered management of pumping well schedules, regional water-supply sharing, and water conservation. In a scenario that simulated towns sharing water supplies, streamflow in the Charles River as it exits the basin increased by 18 percent during July through September and an excess water-supply capacity of 13.4 cubic feet per second, above and beyond average use, would be available to all towns in the basin. These study results could help water suppliers and regulators evaluate strategies for balancing ground-water development and streamflow reductions in the basin.

CONTENTS

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Previous Investigations

Description of Study Area

Acknowledgments

Basin Hydrology

Ground Water

Streamflow

Estimation of Base Flow

Water Use and Budget

Modifications to the Original Flow Model

Combining East and West Models

Modifications to Model Parameters and Boundaries

Modifications to Stresses

Model Calibration

Model Errors and Limitations

Optimization Methods

Hydrologic Response Coefficients

Water-Management Objectives and Constraints

Response Coefficient Errors

Analysis of Management Alternatives Using Simulation-Optimization

Maximize Pumping

Maximize Streamflow

Proposed Wells

Wastewater Management

New Sewers

Holliston

Bellingham

Siting of Recharge Basins

Adding Wastewater Recharge to an Existing Wastewater Facility

Injection Wells

Moving Wastewater Effluent Upstream

Stormwater Recharge

Recharge of Flood Waters

Water Conservation

Drinking Water Transfers Between Towns

Drinking Water Discharge to Streams

Other Management Strategies

Limitations of this Analysis

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix 1: Historic Average Monthly Stress Rates (1989-98), Upper Charles River Basin, Eastern Massachusetts

Appendix 2: Hydrologic Response Coefficients for Withdrawal and Return Stresses Analyzed, Upper Charles River Basin, Eastern Massachusetts

FIGURES

1. Map showing location and surficial geology of the study area, upper Charles River basin, eastern Massachusetts

2. Graph showing monthly average precipitation (1957-2000) and temperature (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2001) for climate station 199316 in Medway

3, 4. Maps showing:

3. Streamflow measurement sites and constraint points, upper Charles River basin

4. Ground-water and surface-water withdrawals analyzed, upper Charles River basin

5. Graph showing average monthly municipal water withdrawals (1989-98) and wastewater discharges in the upper Charles River basin

6. Map showing water-return sites analyzed, upper Charles River basin

7. Graph showing monthly average recharge and withdrawals (1989-98), upper Charles River basin

8. Map showing model grid and locations of streamflow and water-level calibration points, upper Charles River basin

9-11. Graphs showing:

9. Simulated and observed water levels for selected observation wells in the upper Charles River basin

10. Simulated and observed base-flow values for selected locations in the upper Charles River basin

11. Response coefficients for streamflow depletions at the Charles River exit from the study area in response to pumping during month 1 at Wrentham well 2 (WR-02G in table 5 and figure 4)

12-15. Maps showing:

12. Proposed Bellingham wastewater facility location, upper Charles River basin

13. Hypothetical wastewater recharge and discharge facility, Franklin, upper Charles River basin

14. The existing Charles River Pollution Control District discharge location and a hypothetical upstream discharge location (CRPCD-P), upper Charles River basin

15. Proposed detention basin (BL-SWP), Bellingham

16, 17. Graphs showing:

16. Daily and average streamflow for October 1998 at the Medway streamflow- gaging station (01103280)

17. Daily streamflow variability by month at the Medway streamflow-gaging station (01103280)

TABLES

1. Base flow under average climatic conditions and average water-use conditions (1989-98), upper Charles River basin, eastern Massachusetts

2. Base flow under dry (90-percent low flow) climatic conditions and average water-use conditions (1989-98), upper Charles River basin

3. Base flow under average climatic conditions and no water-supply or wastewater pumping, upper Charles River basin

4. Base flow under dry (90-percent low flow) climatic conditions and no water- supply or wastewater pumping, upper Charles River basin

5. Water withdrawals in the upper Charles River basin

6. Population characteristics of towns with greater than 10,000,000 square feet of area within the study area, upper Charles River basin

7. Water-discharge stresses as used in the optimization analysis for the upper Charles River basin

8. Water withdrawals and regulatory limits by town, upper Charles River basin

9. Model calculated steady-state water levels and observed average water levels, upper Charles River basin

10. Modeled steady-state base flow and observed base flow, upper Charles River basin

11. Constraint points, upper Charles River basin

12. Summary of water-resource management scenarios analyzed, upper Charles River basin

13. Base flow under Scenario 1A, average climatic conditions and maximum permitted pumping, upper Charles River basin

14. Base flow under Scenario 1B, dry (90-percent low flow) climatic conditions and maximum permitted pumping, upper Charles River basin

15. Low flows at the 10 constraint points under different pumping stresses, upper Charles River basin

16. Pumping rates to maximize summertime base flow, Scenario 2B, average climatic conditions, no proposed or hypothetical stresses, upper Charles River basin

17. Base flow under optimal pumping to maximize base flow, Scenario 2B, average climatic conditions, no proposed or hypothetical stresses, upper Charles River basin

18. Base flow with all wells including proposed municipal supply wells pumping at maximum permitted rates, Scenario 3A, average climatic conditions, upper Charles River basin

19. Base flow maximized under optimal pumping with proposed wells active, Scenario 3C, average climatic conditions, towns receive average (1989-98) water supplies, upper Charles River basin

20. Base flow maximized under optimal pumping with proposed wells active, Scenario 3D, dry (90-percent low flow) conditions, upper Charles River basin

21. Base flow with Holliston wastewater routed to the Charles River Pollution Control District treatment plant, Scenario 4A, average climatic conditions, average withdrawals (1989-98) and return stresses (except for Holliston wastewater), upper Charles River basin

22. Base flow with Holliston wastewater routed to local recharge basins, Scenario 4B, average climatic conditions, average withdrawals (1989-98) and return stresses (except for Holliston wastewater), upper Charles River basin

23. Base flow with Bellingham wastewater routed to BL-WRP recharge basin, Scenario 4C, average climatic conditions, average withdrawals (1989-98) and return stresses (except for Bellingham wastewater), upper Charles River basin

24. Response coefficients for hypothetical recharge basins west of Miscoe Brook in Franklin, upper Charles River basin, eastern Massachusetts.

25. Optimal wastewater-flow schedule, Miscoe Brook hypothetical recharge-discharge facility, Scenario 4D, Franklin, upper Charles River basin

26. Pumping rates for wastewater discharge and recharge at Charles River Pollution Control District to optimize base flow, Scenario 4E, upper Charles River basin

27. Base-flow changes at outflow constraint point CR4 resulting from the addition of a recharge basin to the Charles River Pollution Control District, Scenario 4E, upper Charles River basin

28. Base-flow changes at CR3 resulting from relocating Charles River Pollution Control District effluent upstream, Scenario 5A, upper Charles River basin

29. Base flow under water conservation measures, Scenario 7A, municipal water use limited to 90 percent of average during June through September, average climatic conditions (1989-98), upper Charles River basin

30. Base flow at constraint points under basin-wide water-supply sharing, Scenario 8A, average climatic conditions, each town receives its average water supplies (1989-98), upper Charles River basin

31. Base flow at constraint points under dry conditions (90-percent low flow) and basin-wide water-supply sharing, Scenario 8B, each town receives its average water supplies (1989-98) , upper Charles River basin

32. Base flow under direct drinking-water discharge to streams, Scenario 9A, each town receives its average water supplies (1989-98), average climatic conditions, upper Charles River basin

33. Benefits of potential water-management actions, upper Charles River basin



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

Eggleston, J.R., 2004, Evaluation of Strategies for Balancing Water Use and Streamflow Reductions in the Upper Charles River Basin, Eastern Massachusetts: U.S. Geological Water Resources Investigations Report 03-4330, 94 p.


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


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