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Fact Sheet 2014–3067

Science for the Stewardship of the Groundwater Resources of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

By Jeffrey R. Barbaro, John P. Masterson, and Denis R. LeBlanc

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3.25 MB)Introduction

Groundwater is the sole source of drinking water and a major source of freshwater for domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Groundwater discharged from aquifers also supports freshwater pond and stream ecosystems and coastal wetlands. Six hydraulically distinct groundwater-flow systems (lenses) have been delineated on Cape Cod. Of the approximately 450 million gallons per day of water that enters these lenses as recharge from precipitation, about 69 percent discharges directly to the coast, about 24 percent discharges to streams, and almost 7 percent is withdrawn by public-supply wells. In most areas, groundwater in the sand and gravel aquifers is shallow and susceptible to contamination from anthropogenic sources and saltwater intrusion. Continued land development and population growth on Cape Cod have created concerns that potable water will become less available and that the quantity and quality of water flowing to natural discharge areas such as ponds, streams, and coastal waters will continue to decline.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been investigating groundwater and surface-water resources on Cape Cod for more than 50 years. Recent studies highlighted in this fact sheet have focused on the sources of water to public-supply wells, ponds, streams, and coastal areas; the transport and discharge of nitrogen derived from domestic and municipal disposal of wastewater; and the effects of climate change on groundwater and surface-water resources. Other USGS activities include long-term monitoring of groundwater and pond levels and field research on groundwater contamination at the USGS Cape Cod Toxic Substances Hydrology Research Site ( near the Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC), formerly the Massachusetts Military Reservation.

First posted September 4, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Office Chief, Massachusetts-Rhode Island Office
New England Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
10 Bearfoot Road
Northborough, MA 01532
(508) 490-5000

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Suggested citation:

Barbaro, J.R., Masterson, J.P., and LeBlanc, D.R., 2014, Science for the  stewardship of the groundwater resources of Cape Cod, Massachusetts: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2014–3067, 6 p.,

ISSN 2327–6916 (print)

ISSN 2327–6932 (online)

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