Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 2: Shetucket River Basin

Connecticut Water Resources Bulletin 11
Prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Connecticut Water Resource Commission
By: , and 



The Shetucket River basin has a relatively abundant supply of water of generally good quality which is derived from precipitation that has fallen on the basin. Annual precipitation has ranged from about 30 inches to 75 inches and has averaged about 45 inches over a 35-year period. Approximately 20 inches of water are returned to the atmosphere each year by evaporation and transpiration; the remainder of the annual precipitation either flows overland to streams or percolates downward to the water table and ultimately flows out of the basin in the Shetucket River or as underflow through the deposits beneath. During the autumn and winter months precipitation normally is sufficient to cause a substantial increase in the amount of water stored underground and in surface reservoirs within the basins whereas in the summer most of the precipitation is lost through evaporation and transpiration, resulting in sharply reduced streamflow and lowered groundwater levels. The mean monthly storage of water in the basin on an average is 3.5 inches higher in November than it is in June. The amount of water that flows out of the basin in the Shetucket River represents the total amount of water potentlally available for use by man. Annual runoff from the entire basin above the Quinebaug River has ranged from about 13 to 42 inches since 1929, and has averaged about 23 inches (300 billion gallons). Although runoff indicates the total amount of water potentially available, it is usually not economically or legally feasible for man to use all of it. On the other hand, with increased development, It is possible that some water will be reused several times. The water available may be tapped as it flows through the area or is temporarily stored in streams, lakes, and aquifers. The amounts that can be developed vary from place to place and time to time, depending on the amount of precipitation, on the size of drainage area, on the thickness, permeability and areal extent of aquifers, and on the variations in chemical and physical quality of the water. Differences in streamflow from point to point are due primarily to differences in the proportion of stratified drift in the drainage basin above each point, which affect the timing of streamflow, and to differences in precipitation, which affect the amount of streamflow. Information on streamflow from gaging stations may be extended to ungaged sites by accounting for both of these factors ,in calculations. Future floods on the upper Willimantic River or the Shetucket River are unlikely to cause major damage so long as buildings are not constructed below the highest flood elevations to be expected with the present system of reservoirs for flood control. Ground water can be obtained from wells almost anywhere in the Shetucket River basin, but the amount obtainable from individual wells at any particular point depends upon the type and water-bearing properties of the aquifers present. For practical purposes, the earth materials in the basin comprise three aquifers--stratified drift, till, and bedrock, Stratified drift is the only aquifer generally capable of yielding more than 100 gpm to individual wells. This aquifer covers about 18 percent of the basin and occurs chiefly In lowlands where it overlies till or bedrock. Coefficient of permeability of the coarse-grained unit of stratified drift averages about 1,900 gpd per sq ft. Drilled, screened wells tapping this unit, are known to yield from 200 to 675 gpm. Dug wells in coarse-grained stratified drift should supply at least 2 gpm per foot of drawdown over an 8-hour period. Fine-grained stratified drift has an average coefficient of permeability of about 400 gpd per sq ft and can usually yield to dug wells supplies sufficient for household use. Till and bedrock are widespread in extent but can provide only small to moderate water supplies. Till is tapped chiefly by dug wells; permanent supplies of more than 200 gpd can be obtained from dug wells at a majority of sites in areas of till, but there are many sites where the till is too impermeable or too thin to provide this much water throughout the year. The coefficient of permeability of till ranges from about 0.2 gpd per sq ft to 55 gpd per sq it. Bedrock Is tapped chiefly by drilled wells, about 90 percent of which will supply at least 3 gpm. Very few, however, will supply more than 50 gpm. The amount of ground water potentially available In an area depends upon the amount of groundwater outflow, the amount of ground water in storage, and the quantity of water available by Induced infiltration from streams and lakes. From data on permeability, saturated thickness, recharge, yield from aquifer storage, well performance, and streamflow, preliminary estimates of ground-water availability can be made for any point in the basin. Long-term yields estimated for 15 areas especially favorable for development of large ground-water supplies ranged from 1.3 to 61.8 mgd. Detailed site studies to determine optimum yields, drawdowns, and spacing of individual wells are needed before major ground-water development is undertaken In these or other areas. The chemical quality of water in the Shetucket basin Is generally good to excellent. Samples of naturally occurring surface water collected from 32 sites contained less than 61 ppm of dissolved solids and less than 32 ppm of hardness. Water from wells is more highly mineralized than naturally occurring water from streams. Even so only 7 percent of wells sampled yielded water with more than 200 ppm of dissolved sol-ids and only 9 percent yielded water with more than 120 ppm of hardness. Even in the major rivers, which are used to transport industrial waste, the dissolved mineral content is less than 100 ppm and hardness rarely exceeds 40 ppm. One notable exception occurs in the lower reaches of Little River where an exceptional amount of industrial waste is discharged into the river near Versailles. This waste is particularly noticeable during low streamflow. Iron and manganese In both ground water and surface water are the only constituents whose concentrations commonly exceed recommended limits for domestic and industrial use. Most wells in the basin yield clear water with little or no iron or manganese, but distributed among them are wells with ground water that contains enough of these dissolved constituents to be troublesome for most uses. iron concentrations in naturally occurring stream water exceeded 0.3 ppm under tow-flow conditions at 20 percent of the sites sampled. Large concentrations of iron in stream water result from discharge of iron-bearing ground water or from the discharge of water from swamps. In swamps the iron is released largely from decaying vegetation. Ground water more than 30 feet below the land surface has a relatively constant temperature, usually between 48°F and 50°F. Water temperature in very shallow wells may fluctuate from about 38°F in February or March to about 55°F in late summer. Water temperature in the larger streams fluctuates much more widely, ranging from 32°F at least for brief periods in winter, to about 85°F occasionally during The quantity of suspended sediment transported by streams in the basin is negligible, though amounts large enough to be troublesome may occur locally at times. The total amount of water used In the Shetucket Rlver basin for all purposes during 1961 was about 5,810 million gallons~ which is equivalent to 208 gpd per person, Public water systems supplied the domestic needs of nearly half the population of the basin; 10 systems were sampled, all of which provided water of better quality than the U.S. Public Health Service suggests for drinking water standards.

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Title Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 2: Shetucket River Basin
Series title Connecticut Water Resources Bulletin
Series number 11
Year Published 1967
Language English
Publisher Connecticut Water Resources Commission
Description Report: viii, 96 p.; 4 Plates: 36.00 x 58.00 inches and smaller
Country United States
State Connecticut
Other Geospatial Shetucket River Basin
Scale 48000
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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