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Estimated water use and availability in the lower Blackstone River basin, northern Rhode Island and south-central Massachusetts, 1995-99

February 1, 2004

The Blackstone River basin includes approximately 475 square miles in northern Rhode Island and south-central Massachusetts. The study area (198 square miles) comprises six subbasins of the lower Blackstone River basin. The estimated population for the study period 1995?99 was 149,651 persons. Water-use data including withdrawals, use, and return flows for the study area were collected. Withdrawals averaged 29.869 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) with an estimated 12.327 Mgal/d exported and an estimated 2.852 Mgal/d imported; this resulted in a net export of 9.475 Mgal/d. Public-supply withdrawals were 22.694 Mgal/d and self-supply withdrawals were 7.170 Mgal/d, which is about 24 percent of total withdrawals. Two users withdrew 4.418 Mgal/d of the 7.170 Mgal/d of self-supply withdrawals. Total water use averaged 20.388 Mgal/d. The largest aggregate water use was for domestic supply (10.113 Mgal/d, 50 percent of total water use), followed by industrial water use (4.127 Mgal/d, 20 percent), commercial water use (4.026 Mgal/d, 20 percent), non-account water use (1.866 Mgal/d, 9 percent) and agricultural water use (0.252 Mgal/d, 1 percent). Wastewater disposal averaged 15.219 Mgal/d with 10.395 Mgal/d or 68 percent disposed at National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) outfalls for municipal wastewater-treatment facilities. The remaining 4.824 Mgal/d or 32 percent was self-disposed, 1.164 Mgal/d of which was disposed through commercial and industrial NPDES outfalls.

Water availability (base flow plus safe-yield estimates minus streamflow criteria) was estimated for the low-flow period, which included June, July, August, and September. The median base flow for the low-flow period from 1957 to 1999 was estimated at 0.62 Mgal/d per square mile for sand and gravel deposits and 0.19 Mgal/d per square mile for till deposits. Safe-yield estimates for public-supply reservoirs totaled 20.2 Mgal/d. When the 7-day, 10-year low flow (7Q10) was subtracted from base flow, an estimated median rate of 50.5 Mgal/d of water was available for the basin during August, the lowest base-flow month. In addition, basin-wide water-availability estimates were calculated with and without streamflow criteria for each month of the low-flow period at the 75th, 50th, and 25th percentiles of base flow. These water availability estimates ranged from 42.3 to 181.7 Mgal/d in June; 20.2 to 96.7 Mgal/d in July; 20.2 to 85.4 Mgal/d in August, and 20.2 to 97.5 Mgal/d in September. Base flow was less than the Aquatic Base Flow (ABF), minimum flow considered adequate to protect aquatic fauna, from July through September at the 25th percentile and in August and September at the 50th percentile.

A basin-stress ratio, which is equal to total withdrawals divided by water availability, was also calculated. The basin-stress ratio for August at the 50th percentile of base flow minus the 7Q10 was 0.68 for the study area. For individual subbasins, the ratio ranged from 0.13 in the Chepachet River subbasin to 0.95 in the Abbot Run subbasin. In addition, basin-stress ratios with and without streamflow criteria for all four months of the low-flow period were calculated at the 75th, 50th, and 25th percentiles of base flow. These values ranged from 0.19 to 0.83 in June, 0.36 to 1.50 in July, 0.40 to 1.14 in August, and 0.31 to 0.78 in September. Ratios could not be calculated by using the ABF at the 50th and 25th percentiles in August and September because the estimated base flow was less than the ABF.

The depletion of the Blackstone River flows by Cumberland Water Department Manville well no. 1 in Rhode Island was estimated with the computer program STRMDEPL and specified daily pumping rates. STRMDEPL uses analytical solutions to calculate time-varying rates of streamflow depletion caused by pumping at wells. Results show that streamflow depletions were about 97 percent of average daily pumping rates for 1995 through 1999. Relative streamflow depletions for

Citation Information

Publication Year 2003
Title Estimated water use and availability in the lower Blackstone River basin, northern Rhode Island and south-central Massachusetts, 1995-99
DOI 10.3133/wri034190
Authors Lora K. Barolw
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2003-4190
Index ID wri034190
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization