The Scituate Reservoir is the primary source of drinking water for more than 60 percent of the population of Rhode Island. From October 1, 1982, to September 30, 2019, water years (WYs) 1983–2019 (a water year is the period between October 1 and September 30 and is designated by the year in which it ends), the Providence Water Supply Board maintained a fixed-frequency sampling program at 37 stations to monitor water quality in tributaries to the Scituate Reservoir. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Providence Water Supply Board, has measured streamflow at selected streamgages in the Scituate Reservoir drainage area since WY 1994, monitored water quality at selected stations since WY 2009, and conducted targeted base-flow and stormflow sampling at five stations in WYs 2016–19. Daily loads and yields of constituents (chloride, nitrite, nitrate, total coliform bacteria, Escherichia coli, and orthophosphate) were determined for sampled days during WYs 2013–19, and trends were examined for the entire period of record, predominantly WYs 1983–2019. USGS water-quality data were used to determine annual loads and yields of chloride and sodium for WYs 2013–19 at 14 stations, and nutrients and suspended sediment for WYs 2016–19 at 5 stations.
Tributaries in the Scituate Reservoir drainage area for WYs 2013–19 were slightly acidic (pH values less than 7.0 standard units) and often below the recommended pH range of 6.5 to 8.5 standard units, as described by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the secondary drinking-water regulations. Most measurements of water color in the tributaries were greater than the EPA secondary drinking-water regulation of 15 platinum-cobalt units. Chloride concentrations in Providence Water Supply Board samples rarely exceeded the EPA secondary drinking-water regulation for chloride (250 milligrams per liter); however, chloride concentrations estimated from continuous measurements of specific conductance exceeded the EPA criterion continuous concentration recommended for freshwater (230 milligrams per liter) for short periods ranging from 10 minutes to 26 hours at two streamgages.
Positive trends in pH, color, alkalinity, and chloride at more than half of the monitoring stations were identified for WYs 1983–2019. Fewer than half of the stations had significant trends in turbidity values, and significant trends varied in direction (positive or negative trends). Trend tests were not performed on total coliform bacteria, Escherichia coli, and nitrate concentrations because of analytical method changes that coincide with abrupt shifts in the magnitude and distribution of concentration data.
The median of daily loads and yields of chloride, nitrite, nitrate, orthophosphate, and bacteria determined for each Providence Water Supply Board sample in WYs 2013–19 varied across the 37 monitoring stations, but yields were generally greater at stations in the Moswansicut and Regulating Reservoir subbasins. Average daily yields of chloride and sodium estimated from continuous records of specific-conductance and streamflow data at 14 stations ranged from 42 to 310 kilograms per square mile per day and 28 to 180 kilograms per square mile per day, respectively. The mean annual yields of total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and suspended sediment determined for five stations ranged from 16 to 78 kilograms per square mile, from 370 to 2,100 kilograms per square mile, and from 5,000 to 13,000 kilograms per square mile, respectively. More than half of the nutrient and suspended sediment loads occurred during stormflow.
|Title||Water-quality conditions and constituent loads, water years 2013–19, and water-quality trends, water years 1983–2019, in the Scituate Reservoir drainage area, Rhode Island|
|Authors||Alana B. Spaetzel, 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|