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Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5137

Prepared in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

Estimated Hydrologic Budgets of Kettle-Hole Ponds in Coastal Aquifers of Southeastern Massachusetts

By Donald A. Walter and John P. Masterson

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (13.2 MB)Abstract

Kettle-hole ponds in southeastern Massachusetts are in good hydraulic connection to an extensive coastal aquifer system that includes the Plymouth-Carver aquifer system on the mainland and aquifers underlying Cape Cod. The ponds receive water from, and contribute water to, the underlying glacial aquifer; ponds also receive water from precipitation and lose water to evaporation from the pond surface. Some ponds are connected to surface-water drainage systems and receive water from or contribute water to streams or adjacent wetlands. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection currently (2011) is developing Total Maximum Daily Loads of phosphorus for the freshwater ponds in the region to maintain the health of pond ecosystems; the amounts and sources of water fluxes into and out of the ponds are important factors in determining the amount of phosphorus that can be assimilated into a pond. To assist in this effort, the U.S. Geological Survey used groundwater-flow models of the coastal aquifer system to estimate hydrologic budgets—including inflows and outflows from the aquifer system and adjacent streams and wetlands, and recharge from precipitation—for 425 ponds in southeastern Massachusetts.

Water fluxes through the ponds are a function of several factors, including the size, shape, and bathymetry of the pond, orientation of the pond relative to the regional hydraulic gradient, and hydrologic setting relative to the proximity of groundwater divides and discharge boundaries. Total steady-state fluxes through the ponds range from more than 3,300,000 to less than 2,000 cubic feet per day. For ponds without surface-water inlets or outlets, groundwater inflow accounts for 98 to 3 percent of total inflow; conversely, recharge onto the pond surface accounts for the remainder of inflow (between 2 and 97 percent). All natural flows from these ponds are through recharge from the pond into the aquifer. In one pond, about 94 percent of the total outflow is removed for water supply. For ponds that are connected to surface-water drainages, most inflow and outflow are through streams. Ponds that receive water from streams receive most (58 to 89 percent) of their water from those streams. Ponds that are drained by streams lose between 5 and 100 percent of their water to those streams.

First posted December 15, 2011

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

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Suggested citation:

Walter, D.A., and Masterson, J.P., 2011, Estimated hydrologic budgets of kettle-hole ponds in coastal aquifers of southeastern Massachusetts: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5137, 72 p., at




Purpose and Scope

Hydrogeology of Southeastern Massachusetts

Methods of Analysis

Estimated Hydrologic Budgets

Water Fluxes Into and Out of Ponds

Limitations of Analysis

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix 1. Locations of Simulated Ponds on U.S. Geological Survey Topographic Quadrangles

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