Water Quality Assessment of the New England Coastal Basins in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island: Environmental Settings and Implications for Water Quality and Aquatic Biota

Water Resources Investigations Report 98-4249

By Sarah M. Flanagan, Martha G. Nielson, Keith W. Robinson, and James F. Coles

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The New England Coastal Basins in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island constitute one of 59 study units selected for water-quality assessment as part of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. England Coastal Basins study unit encompasses the fresh surface waters and ground waters in a 23,000 square-mile area that drains to the Atlantic Ocean.  Major basins include those of the Kennebec, Androscoggin, Saco, Merrimack, Charles, Blackstone, Taunton, and Pawcatuck Rivers.  Defining the environmental setting of the study unit is the first step in designing and conducting a multi-disciplinary regional water-quality assessment. The report describes the natural and human factors that affect water quality in the basins and includes descriptions of the physiography, climate, geology, soils, surface- and ground-water hydrology, land use, and the aquatic ecosystem. Although surface-water quality has greatly improved over the past 30 years as a result of improved wastewater treatment at municipal and industrial wastewater facilities, a number of water-quality problems remain.  Industrial and municipal wastewater discharges, combined sewer overflows, hydrologic modifications from dams and water diversions, and runoff from urban land use are the major causes of water-quality degradation in 1998.  The most frequently detected contaminants in ground water in the study area are volatile organic compounds, petroleum-related products, nitrates, and chloride and sodium.  Sources of these contaminants include leaking storage tanks, accidental spills, landfills, road salting, and septic systems and lagoons.  Elevated concentrations of mercury are found in fish tissue from streams and lakes throughout the study area.





Purpose and Scope


Environmental Setting





Surficial Deposits



Surface Water

Streamflow Characteristics

Floods and Droughts

Lakes, Reservoirs, and Wetlands

Ground Water


Recharge, Discharge, and Ground-Water Levels

Ecological Regions and Fisheries




Land Use and Land Cover



Urban and Industrial Activities

Use of Water

Implications of Environmental Settings for Water Quality and Aquatic Biota

Surface Water

Ground Water

Aquatic Biota

Summary and Conclusions

Selected References


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Table of Contents--41KB


Environmental Setting--1,539KB







Cover4-- 91KB


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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Last modified: Monday, August 13 2007, 04:33:22 PM
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