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Effects of Alternative Instream-Flow Criteria and Water-Supply Demands on Ground-Water Development Options in the Big River Area, Rhode Island

By Gregory E. Granato and Paul M. Barlow

Prepared in cooperation with the Rhode Island Water Resources Board

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5301

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

Granato, G.E., and Barlow, P.M., 2005, Effects of alternative instream-flow criteria and water-supply demands on ground-water development options in the Big River Area, Rhode Island: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5301, 110 p.


 For more information about USGS activities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, visit the USGS MA-RI Water Science Center Home Page.

Introduction

Transient numerical ground-water-flow simulation and optimization techniques were used to evaluate potential effects of instream-flow criteria and water-supply demands on ground-water development options and resultant streamflow depletions in the Big River Area, Rhode Island. The 35.7 square-mile (mi2) study area includes three river basins, the Big River Basin (30.9 mi2), the Carr River Basin (which drains to the Big River Basin and is 7.33 mi2 in area), the Mishnock River Basin (3.32 mi2), and a small area that drains directly to the Flat River Reservoir. The overall objective of the simulations was to determine the amount of ground water that could be withdrawn from the three basins when constrained by streamflow requirements at four locations in the study area and by maximum rates of withdrawal at 13 existing and hypothetical well sites. The instream-flow requirement for the outlet of each basin and the outfall of Lake Mishnock were the primary variables that limited the amount of ground water that could be withdrawn. A requirement to meet seasonal ground-water-demand patterns also limits the amount of ground water that could be withdrawn by up to about 50 percent of the total withdrawals without the demand-pattern constraint. Minimum water-supply demands from a public water supplier in the Mishnock River Basin, however, did not have a substantial effect on withdrawals in the Big River Basin. Hypothetical dry-period instream-flow requirements and the effects of artificial recharge also affected the amount of ground water that could be withdrawn.

Results of simulations indicate that annual average ground-water withdrawal rates that range up to 16 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) can be withdrawn from the study area under simulated average hydrologic conditions depending on instream-flow criteria and water-supply demand patterns. Annual average withdrawals of 10 to 12 Mgal/d are possible for proposed demands of 3.4 Mgal/d in the Mishnock Basin, and for a constant annual instream-flow criterion of 0.5 cubic foot per second per square mile (ft3/s/mi2) at the four streamflow-constraint locations. An average withdrawal rate of 10 Mgal/d can meet estimates of future (2020) water-supply needs of surrounding communities in Rhode Island. This withdrawal rate represents about 13 percent of the average 2002 daily withdrawal from the Scituate Reservoir (76 Mgal/d), the State's largest water supply. Average annual withdrawal rates of 6 to 7 Mgal/d are possible for more stringent instream-flow criteria that might be used during dry-period hydrologic conditions. Two example scenarios of dry-period instream-flow constraints were evaluated: first, a minimum instream flow of 0.1 cubic foot per second at any of the four constraint locations; and second, a minimum instream flow of 10 percent of the minimum monthly streamflow estimate for each streamflow-constraint location during the period 1961-2000.

The State of Rhode Island is currently (2004) considering methods for establishing instream-flow criteria for streams within the State. Twelve alternative annual, seasonal, or monthly instream-flow criteria that have been or are being considered for application in southeastern New England were used as hypothetical constraints on maximum ground-water-withdrawal rates in management-model calculations. Maximum ground-water-withdrawal rates ranged from 5 to 16 Mgal/d under five alternative annual instream-flow criteria. Maximum ground-water-withdrawal rates ranged from 0 to 13.6 Mgal/d under seven alternative seasonal or monthly instream-flow criteria. The effect of ground-water withdrawals on seasonal variations in monthly average streamflows under each criterion also were compared. Evaluation of management-model results indicates that a single annual instream-flow criterion may be sufficient to preserve seasonal variations in monthly average streamflows and meet water-supply demands in the Big River Area, because withdrawals from wells in the Big River Area cause streamflow depletions for 6 months to a year and the minimum allowable depletion limits total withdrawals throughout the year.

Ground-water withdrawals from basins in Rhode Island typically increase during the months of May through October to meet increased water demands during the summer. Simulations that mimicked typical patterns of increased summer demands resulted in rates of average annual ground-water withdrawals from the basin that were about one-half of withdrawal rates without the seasonal constraint because peak water use during the summer season coincides with the period of lowest annual streamflows. Average annual withdrawals of about 6 Mgal/d from the network of 13 ground-water wells were determined for these seasonal-demand patterns under an annually constant instream-flow criterion of 0.5 ft3/s/mi2.

If the well network is reduced to nine wells by eliminating three hypothetical wells in the Carr River Basin and one hypothetical well in the Big River Basin, ground-water withdrawals are reduced by about 13 percent, from 12 Mgal/d to 10.4 Mgal/d. These four wells were eliminated in the scenarios because results of previous simulations indicated that, for the condition of an annually constant instream-flow criterion of 0.5 ft3/s/mi2, none of these wells would produce the 1 Mgal/d that is considered necessary to recover the cost of installing and operating a production well. This alternative well network would not affect the natural streamflow regime in the Carr River upstream of Capwell Mill Pond and would minimize the potential effects of water-supply development in the upper reaches of the Big River and its tributaries.

Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Location and Physiography

Hydrogeology

Numerical Models of the Big River Area

Streamflow Response to Ground-Water Withdawals

Streamflow and Instream-Flow Criteria Applied to Basins in the Big River Area

Estimated and Simulated Streamflow

Instream-Flow Criteria

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service New England Aquatic Base Flow

Alternative Annual Instream-Flow Criteria

Alternative Seasonal and Monthly Instream-Flow Criteria

Ground-Water Demand and Potential Ground-Water Supplies in the Big River Area

Seasonal Ground-Water Demand in Rhode Island

Ground-Water Supplies in the Big River Area

Conjunctive-Management Model to Evaluate Ground-Water-Development Options

Formulation of the Conjunctive-Management Model

Response-Matrix Technique for Solution of the Conjunctive-Management Model

Applications of the Model

Alternative Instream-Flow Criteria

Alternative Ground-Water-Demand Constraints

Alternative Water-Supply-Network Constraints

Alternative Instream-Flow Criteria for Dry Periods

Alternative Management Option: Artificial Recharge

Summary and Conclusions

Acknowledgments

References Cited

Appendix 1: Potential Streamflow Depletions in the Big River Area Under Alternative Instream-Flow Criteria

Appendix 2: Monthly Ground-Water Withdrawal Rates for Each Alternative Conjunctive-Management Model

Figures

1–4. Maps showing:

1. Location of the Big River 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-record streamflow-gaging stations and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatological station used to estimate hydrologic conditions in the Big River Area

3. Spatial extent of the study area, active area of simulation model, specified stream-inflow locations, and location of model-calculated streamflows out of the Big River Area

4. Grid and boundary conditions of the active model cells for the simulation model of the Big River Area

5. Schematic showing ground-water flow to a stream in the Big River Area, illustrating A, natural conditions; and B, reductions in streamflow caused by ground-water withdrawals

6–16. Graphs showing:

6. Sources of water to a well as a function of pumping time

7. Hypothetical streamflow depletion caused by two wells pumping independently for 180 days at 1.0 million gallons per day

8. Estimated monthly streamflow statistics at the Nooseneck River, Carr River, and Big River partial-record streamflow-gaging stations, during the period 1961–2000 compared to calculated monthly flow statistics from the 1964–79 period

9. Estimated average daily streamflows in the Mishnock River at State Route 3 (station 01115970) with and without depletions caused by documented monthly ground-water withdrawal rates at wells KC01 and KC02 in the Mishnock River Basin, and measured partial-record flow data collected during the period from June 1996 through December 1998

10. Estimates of average monthly flows, the median of monthly average flows, and the median of monthly median flows during the period 1961–2000 at the A, Lake Mishnock Outflow (station 01115965); B, Mishnock River at State Route 3 (station 01115970); C, Carr River below Capwell Mill Pond (station 01115770); and D, Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835)

11. Daily and monthly streamflow-duration curves showing the percentage of time that the estimated streamflow would be equaled or exceeded without any ground-water withdrawals for A, Lake Mishnock Outflow (station 01115965); B, Mishnock River at State Route 3 (station 01115970); C, Carr River below Capwell Mill Pond (station 01115770); and D, Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835), central Rhode Island, 1961–2000

12. Area-based U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monthly minimum streamflow recommendations and estimates of the median of monthly average flows for A, Lake Mishnock Outflow (station 01115965); B, Mishnock River at State Route 3 (station 01115970); C, Carr River below Capwell Mill Pond (station 01115770); and D, Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835), 1961–2000

13. Monthly water-supply withdrawals as a percentage of the total annual withdrawals during the period 1995–99 from six water-supply systems that obtain a substantial amount of their water supply from ground-water sources

14. Total monthly ground-water withdrawals from Kent County Water Authority production wells in the Mishnock River Basin, central Rhode Island, 1961–2000

15. Estimated average daily streamflows at the Mishnock River at State Route 3 (station 01115970) with and without documented monthly ground-water withdrawals in the Mishnock River Basin, 1961–2000

16. Daily streamflow-duration curves showing the percentage of time that the estimated streamflow would be equaled or exceeded in four different ground- water withdrawal scenarios for the A, Lake Mishnock Outflow (station 01115965); B, Mishnock River at State Route 3 (station 01115970); C, Carr River below Capwell Mill Pond (station 01115770); and D, Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835), 1961–2000

17. Map showing the location of simulated production wells and streamflow constraint sites identified for management-model formulations in the Big River model area

18–29. Graphs showing:

18. A, proposed monthly ground-water withdrawals from the simulated Kent County Water Authority production wells KC03 and KC04; and B, estimated average monthly streamflows with and without proposed ground-water withdrawals during the period 1961–2000, and annual instream-flow criteria values for the Mishnock River Basin

19. A, proposed monthly ground-water withdrawals from the simulated Kent County Water Authority production wells KC03, KC04, South-01, and North-01; and B, estimated average monthly streamflows with and without proposed ground- water withdrawals during the period 1961–2000, and annual-instream flow criteria values for the Mishnock River Basin

20. Simulated response coefficients for the Lake Mishnock Outflow (station 01115965) from individual wells in the A, Mishnock River Basin; and B, the Carr River Basin, each with a unit withdrawal rate of 1.0 million gallons per day

21. Simulated response coefficients for the Mishnock River at State Route 3 (station 01115970) from individual wells in the A, Mishnock River Basin; and B, the Carr River Basin, each with a unit withdrawal rate of 1.0 million gallons per day

22. Simulated response coefficients for the Carr River below Capwell Mill Pond (station 01115765) from individual wells in the A, Carr River Basin; and B, the Big River Basin, each with a unit withdrawal rate of 1.0 million gallons per day

23. Simulated response coefficients for the Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835) from individual wells in the A, Mishnock River Basin; B, Carr River Basin; and C, the Big River Basin, each with a unit withdrawal rate of 1.0 million gallons per day

24. Effect of alternative annual instream-flow criteria on model-calculated average annual ground-water withdrawals from the Big River Area

25. Seasonal variations in estimated average monthly streamflows at the Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835) for alternative annual instream-flow criteria

26. Seasonal variations in estimated average monthly streamflows in the Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835) for alternative seasonal or monthly instream-flow criteria

27. Seasonal variations in estimated average monthly streamflows in the Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835) for the KCWA and the IRFRTG seasonal instream-flow criteria

28. Estimated average daily streamflows at the Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835) without ground-water withdrawals and with ground-water withdrawals calculated in management model MM09, 1961–2000

29. Daily streamflow-duration curves showing the percentage of time that the estimated streamflow would be equaled or exceeded in different ground- water withdrawal scenarios for A, the Lake Mishnock Outflow (station 01115965); B, the Mishnock River at State Route 3 (station 01115970); C, the Carr River below Capwell Mill Pond (station 01115770); and D, the Big River at Hill Farm Road (station 01115835), 1961–2000

Tables

1. Model-calculated steady-state and transient average annual hydrologic budgets for the Big River Area, central Rhode Island

2. Summary statistics for streamflow-gaging stations in Rhode Island that have a continuous period of record for January 1961 through December 2000

3. Partial-record streamflow-gaging stations, streamflow statistics for the 1996-98 data-collection period, and estimates of associated streamflow statistics during the 1961-2000 period in the Big River Area

4. Correlation coefficients for log-transformed streamflow data from selected continuous-record streamflow-gaging stations and selected partial-record streamflow-gaging stations monitored during the period 1996-98 in the Big River Area

5. Estimated average monthly streamflows without ground-water withdrawals in the Big River Area

6. Summary of selected instream-flow criteria considered in this study

7. Calculated and estimated low-flow statistics for selected streamflow-gaging stations for the period January 1961-December 2000

8. Percentage of average daily streamflows that are less than the Gomez and Sullivan Instream-Flow Incremental Methodology (IFIM) instream-flow criteria for the Saugus River, Massachusetts, in the absence of ground-water withdrawals in the Big River Area during each month

9. Percentage of average daily streamflows that are less than the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection permitted streamflow-diversion thresholds for the Ipswich River, Massachusetts, in the absence of ground-water withdrawals in the Big River Area during each month

10. Percentage of average daily streamflows that are less than the Ipswich River Fisheries Restoration Task Group instream-flow criteria for the Ipswich River, Massachusetts, in the absence of ground-water withdrawals in the Big River Area during each month

11. Percentage of average daily streamflows that are less than the Apse median of monthly median streamflows instream-flow criteria estimated from records from the Hunt River, the Pawcatuck River at Wood River Junction, and the Wood River at Hope Valley streamflow-gaging stations in the absence of ground-water withdrawals in the Big River area during each month

12. Percentage of average daily streamflows that are less than the Apse hybrid instream- flow criteria estimated from records from the Hunt River, the Pawcatuck River at Wood River Junction, and the Wood River at Hope Valley streamflow-gaging stations in the absence of ground-water withdrawals in the Big River Area during each month

13. Percentage of average daily streamflows that are less than the Apse median of monthly average streamflows instream-flow criteria estimated from records from the Hunt River, the Pawcatuck River at Wood River Junction, and the Wood River at Hope Valley streamflow-gaging stations in the absence of ground-water withdrawals in the Big River Area during each month

14. Characteristics of simulated production wells in the Big River Area

15. Potential average annual ground-water withdrawal rates under average hydrologic conditions for the period 1961-2000 with 5 alternative annual instream-flow criteria and 7 alternative seasonal or monthly instream-flow criteria for 13 simulated production wells in the Mishnock, Carr, and Big River Basins

16. Potential average annual ground-water withdrawal rates under average hydrologic conditions for the period 1961-2000 with alternative ground-water-demand constraints and water-supply networks for simulated production wells in the Mishnock, Carr, and Big River Basins

17. Estimated minimum daily average streamflow without ground-water withdrawals and potential streamflow depletion in the Big River Area under dry-period conditions, 1961-2000

18. Potential average annual ground-water withdrawal rates under dry-period conditions during the period 1961-2000 with alternative ground-water-demand constraints and alternative water-supply networks for simulated production wells in the Mishnock, Carr, and Big River Basins

19. Simulated increases in available streamflow caused by artificial recharge of 0.5 million gallons per day (0.77 cubic foot per second) applied in the calibrated ground-water model within the Mishnock River Basin

20. Examples of potential average annual ground-water withdrawal rates with an artificial recharge rate of 0.5 million gallons per day under different hydrologic conditions during the period 1961-2000 with alternative ground-water-demand constraints and alternative water-supply networks for hypothetical production wells in the Mishnock, Carr, and Big River Basins


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