Simulation of the Effects of Development of the Ground-Water Flow System of Long Island, New York

U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4069

by Herbert T. Buxton and Douglas A. Smolensky

This report is available as a pdf below


Extensive development on Long Island since the late 19th century and projections of increased urbanization and ground-water use makes effective water-resource management essential for preservation of the island's hydrologic environment and maintenance of a reliable source of water supply. This report presents results of a ground-water flow simulation analysis of the effects of development on the Long Island ground-water system. It describes ground-water levels, stream-flow, and the ground-water budget for the predevelopment period (pre-1900), the 1960's drought, and a more recent (1968-83) period with significant hydrologic stress. The report also presents estimated effects of a proposed water-supply strategy for the year 2020.

Long Island has three major aquifers-the upper glacial (water-table), the Magothy, and the Lloyd aquifers-that are separated to varying degrees by confining units. Before development, recharge from precipitation entered the ground-water system at a rate of more than 1.1 billion gallons per day. An equal amount discharged to streams (41 percent), the shore (52 percent), and subsea boundaries (7 percent) . Urbanization and withdrawal of more than 400 Mgal/d (million gallons per day) from wells have resulted in local effects that include declines in ground-water levels, drying up and burial of streams and wetlands, reduction of ground-water recharge by increased overland flow to the ocean, a general decrease in ground-water discharge, and salt water intrusion. In some areas, the reduction in recharge is mitigated by leakage from water-supply and wastewater disposal lines, and infiltration of storm water through recharge basins. During 1968-83, a net loss of 240 Mgal/d from the ground-water system caused a decrease in ground-water discharge to streams (135 Mgal/d), to the shore (82 Mgal/d), and to subsea boundaries (23Mgal/d).The greatest adverse effects have been in western Long Island, where the most severe development has occurred. This analysis shows stream base flow to be highly sensitive to water-table fluctuations, and long streams to be more sensitive than short ones.

A water-supply scenario for the year 2020 was simulated that employs redistribution of pumping centers to mitigate extreme local effects . Although the net stress on the ground-water system was projected to increase 57 Mgal/d (24 percent) above that of 1968-83, redistribution of ground-water withdrawals across the island would allow recovery of cones of depression in western Long Island, thereby reducing the threat of salt water intrusion and increasing base flow of some streams . The increased stress would cause a net decrease in base flow island wide of 44 Mgal/d; total base flow would be 281 Mgal/d - 39 percent below predevelopment levels or 14 percent below 1968-83 levels. The most severe effects would be in Nassau and western Suffolk Counties.

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