Hydrologic Interpretive Program

Science Center Objects

The mission of the Hydrologic Interpretive Program is to work with stakeholders to design, carry out, and publish scientific studies addressing critical water-resources issues facing New England and the Nation.

Collection samples hourly at a private domestic bedrock well, Seabrook, New Hampshire

Assessing the variability of arsenic over multiple time scales project. (Public domain.)

The program has four sections, each addressing key aspects of the larger water-resources discipline: environmental hydrology, watershed and urban hydrology, integrated modeling of hydrologic systems, and the development of new statistical and geospatial tools to better serve the water discipline. The work of each section is described below in more detail.

Paul Barlow, Associate Director: pbarlow@usgs.gov


Environmental Hydrology Section

Understanding where and why contaminants are present in groundwater, the persistence of these contaminants in the environment, and their impacts on a State or region, are important concerns for water-resource and public-health scientists. Our scientists study how drought may affect concentrations of arsenic in well water and its implications for human exposure and health; the transport of known toxic chemicals such as PFAS (often referred to as the forever chemical); and how chemicals of emerging concern (including pharmaceuticals, hormones, and 1,4-dioxane) move through groundwater systems. This information helps stakeholders make data-driven decisions about the management of water resources and the protection of human and ecosystem health.

Joseph Ayotte, Chief: jayotte@usgs.gov


USGS boat crew on Merrimack River, Massachusetts

Traveling by boat to estuary sampling and monitoring stations. (Credit: Jason Sorenson. Public domain.)

Watershed and Urban Hydrology Section

New England is home to thousands of watersheds, draining landscapes ranging from pristine portions of the northern Appalachian Mountains to densely populated urban regions near the Atlantic coast.  The Watershed and Urban Hydrology Section conducts studies of hydrologic and water-quality processes across the full range of New England landscapes.  For example, rainfall-runoff processes and related chemical transport in the Sleepers River Watershed, northern Vermont, have been a research focus of the Section for decades.  The Section has also studied sources of chloride and other constituents to the public water-supply watersheds of Providence, R.I. and Cambridge, Mass, to help enhance water-supply protection efforts.  In a recent urban study, the Section pioneered new methods for continuous quantification of stormwater runoff volume and constituent loads entering a large river from highway bridge decks.

Kirk Smith, Chief:  kpsmith@usgs.gov


Well installation using a Geoprobe drilling rig

Well installation using a Geoprobe drilling rig. (Credit: Timothy McCobb. Public domain.)

Integrated Modeling Section

Integrated assessments of hydrologic systems are essential for effective water management. Our center uses state-of-the-art computational modeling and statistical tools to assess groundwater and surface-water availability and quality at a range of spatial and temporal scales across New England. Studies evaluate the effects of human interventions on the physical and geochemical characteristics of hydrologic systems and to identify water availability for human needs—while minimizing adverse effects on ecosystems. A particular focus for the section is the transport and discharge of dissolved nitrogen in the coastal regions of southern New England.

Jeff Barbaro, Chief:  jrbarbar@usgs.gov


Example map of study gage locations for the national analysis of streamflow trends

Example map of study gage locations for the national analysis of streamflow trends. Hodgkins, Glenn A. and others, "Comparing trends in modeled and observed streamflows at minimally altered basins in the United States." Water 12 (2020).

Statistical and Geospatial Section

The Statistical and Geospatial Section uses advanced statistical methods and geospatial tools to better understand the behavior of hydrologic systems at a wide range of spatial scales. For example, staff recently compared modeled and observed streamflow trends from 1984 to 2016 at 502 minimally developed basins across the United States, using several types of statistical models and a deterministic, process-based model. At the local scale, staff have developed and applied a modeling tool (the Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model, or SELDM) that allows users to estimate the probability of stormwater flows, constituent concentrations, and loads exceeding user-selected values.  

Rob Dudley, Chief:  rwdudley@usgs.gov