The Peconic Estuary, at the eastern end of Long Island, has been plagued by a recurrent algal bloom that has caused the severe decline of local marine resources. Although the onset, duration, and cessation of the bloom remain unpredictable, ground-water discharge has been shown to affect surface-water quality in the western part of the estuary. Results from a study on the North Fork of Long Island indicate that local hydrogeologic factors cause differences in ground-water age and characteristics of discharge to the estuary. The need for information on the local patterns and rates of ground-water discharge to the Peconic Estuary prompted analysis of ground-water flow paths and traveltime to three small embayments within the estuary. Meetinghouse Creek, near the west end of the North Fork; Sag Harbor Cove, in the central part of the South Fork; and West Neck Bay, on Shelter Island.
Ground-water-flow models were developed, and particle-tracking procedures were applied to the results of each model, to define the flow paths and traveltime of ground water to the three embayments. The steady-state flow models represent the two-dimensional ground-water-flow system along a vertical section through the uplands of each embayment and simulate long-term hydrologic conditions. The particle-tracking procedure used model-generated ground-water levels and flow rates to calculate the water-particle pathlines and times-of-travel through each flow system from the point of entry (recharge) to the point of exit at streams, the shore, or subsea-discharge areas.
Results for the Meetinghouse Creek study area indicate that about 50 percent of the total recharge that enters the system flows southward to Meetinghouse Creek; half of this amount discharges as base flow to the fresh-water reach of the creek, and half as shoreline underflow to the estuarine reach. About 85 percent of the total discharge to Meetinghouse Creek has flowed entirely within the upper glacial aquifer, and about 15 percent has flowed through the Magothy aquifer. The average age of all ground water discharged to Meetinghouse Creek is about 60 years; the average age of base flow to the freshwater reach of the creek is about 7 years, and the average age of shoreline underflow to the estuarine reach is about 120 years. The results for the Sag Harbor Cove study area indicate that about 30 percent of the total recharge that enters the system flows northward to Sag Harbor Cove; about half of this amount discharges as shoreline underflow, and half as subsea underflow. About 40 percent of the total discharge to Sag Harbor Cove has flowed entirely within the upper glacial aquifer, and about 60 percent has flowed through the Pleistocene marine clay unit, Pleistocene(?) sand unit, or Magothy aquifer. The average age of all ground water discharged to Sag Harbor Cove is about 110 years; the average age of shoreline underflow is about 25 years, and the average age of subsea underflow is about 190 years.
Results for the West Neck Bay study area indicate that about 65 percent of the total recharge that enters the system flows westward to West Neck Bay; virtually all of this amount discharges as shoreline underflow, but a negligible percentage discharges as subsea underflow. Virtually all discharge to West Neck Bay has flowed entirely within the upper glacial aquifer, although a minor amount has flowed through the Pleistocene marine clay unit. The average age of shoreline underflow to West Neck Bay is about 15 years, and the average age of subsea underflow is about 1,800 years.
Ground water that discharges to streams and the shores represented in the models is mostly relatively young water that has flowed entirely within the shallow zones of the flow systems, whereas ground water that discharges to the subsea-discharge areas is mostly old water that has flowed through the deep zones. Data obtained from these models allows evaluation of each embayment.s vulnerability to contaminants introduced at the water table and can guide the development of source-area-protection strategies for the corresponding watersheds.
|Title||Ground-water flow paths and traveltime to three small embayments within the Peconic Estuary, eastern Suffolk County, New York|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Water-Resources Investigations Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||New York Water Science Center|