The source water area for the drinking-water supply of the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, encompasses major transportation corridors, as well as large areas of light industrial, commercial, and residential land use. Because of the large amount of roadway in the drinking-water source area, the Cambridge water supply is affected by the usage of deicing compounds and by other constituents that are flushed from such impervious areas. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has monitored surface-water quality in the Cambridge Reservoir and Stony Brook Reservoir Basins, which compose the drinking-water source area, since 1997 (water year 1998) through continuous monitoring and the collection of stream-flow samples.
In a study conducted by the USGS, in cooperation with the City of Cambridge Water Department, concentrations and loads of calcium (Ca), chloride (Cl), magnesium (Mg), sodium (Na), and sulfate (SO4) were estimated from continuous records of specific conductance and streamflow for streams and tributaries at 10 continuous water-quality monitoring stations. These data were used to characterize current (2015) water-quality conditions, estimate loads and yields, and describe trends in Cl and Na in the tributaries and main-stem streams in the Cambridge Reservoir and Stony Brook Reservoir Basins. These data also were used to describe how stream-water quality is related to various basin characteristics and provide information to guide future management of the drinking-water source area.
Water samples from 2009–15 were analyzed for physical properties and concentrations of Ca, Cl, Mg, Na, potassium (K), SO4, and total phosphorus (TP). Values of physical properties and constituent concentrations varied widely, particularly in composite samples of stormflow from tributaries that have high percentages of constructed impervious areas. Median concentrations of Ca, Cl, Mg, Na, and K in samples collected from the tributaries in the Cambridge Reservoir Basin (27.2, 273, 4.7, 154.5, and 2.8 milligrams per liter (mg/L), respectively) were higher than those for the Stony Brook Reservoir Basin (22.2, 128, 4.3, 77.1, and 2.5, respectively). Differences between tributary samples for concentrations of Cl and Na were related to the percentage of developed land and constructed impervious area in the drinking-water source area. Median concentrations of SO4 in samples collected from the tributaries in the Cambridge Reservoir Basin (10.7 mg/L) were lower than those for the Stony Brook Reservoir Basin (18.0 mg/L).
Concentrations of dissolved Cl and Na in samples and those concentrations estimated from continuous records of specific conductance (particularly during base flow) often were greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) secondary drinking-water standard for Cl (250 mg/L), the chronic aquatic-life guideline for Cl (230 mg/L), and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection drinking-water guideline for Na (20 mg/L). Concentrations of TP (range from 0.008 to 0.69 mg/L in all subbasins) in tributary samples did not differ substantially between the Cambridge Reservoir and Stony Brook Reservoir Basins. About one-half of the concentrations of TP in samples collected during water years 2013–15 exceeded the EPA proposed reference concentration of 0.024 mg/L.
For most tributaries, about 70 percent of the annual loads of Ca, Cl, Mg, Na, and SO4 were associated with base flow. Concentrations of major ions were negatively correlated with streamflow, indicating that these constituents were diluted during stormflow and tend to increase during the summer when streamflow is low. In contrast, between 57 and 92 percent of the annual load for TP was transported during stormflows.
Mean annual yields of Ca, Cl, Mg, Na, and SO4 in the drinking-water source area were 13, 75, 2.6, 40, and 6.9 metric tons per square kilometer, respectively, for water years 2009–15. The mean annual yield of TP in the drinking-water source area for water years 2013–15 was 0.012 metric tons per square kilometer. Yields for major ions and TP were highest in tributary subbasins adjacent to Interstate 95.
Temporal trends in mean annual concentrations for Cl and Na were not significant for water years 1998‒2015 (period of record by the USGS) for the outlet of the Cambridge Reservoir and for the main stem of Stony Brook downstream from the reservoir. Median values of base-flow concentrations of TP at three stations were higher for samples collected during base-flow conditions during water years 2005–7 than for samples collected during water years 2013–15. However, the results were not significant for statistical tests between concentrations in samples collected during storms for the same periods, indicating that the quality of stormwater remains similar.
|Title||Loads and yields of deicing compounds and total phosphorus in the Cambridge drinking-water source area, Massachusetts, water years 2009–15|
|Authors||Kirk P. Smith|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Scientific Investigations Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||New England Water Science Center|