Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 3: lower Thames and southeastern coastal river basins

April 22, 2012

The lower Thames and southeastern coastal river basins have a relatively abundant supply of water of generally good quality which is derived from streams entering the area and precipitation that has fallen on the area. Annual precipitation has ranged from about 32 inches to 65 inches and has averaged about 48 inches over a 30-year period. Approximately 22 inches of water are returned to the atmosphere each year by evaporation and transpiration; the remainder of the annual precipitation either flows overland to streams or percolates downward to the water table and ultimately flows out of the report area through estuaries and coastal streams or as underflow through the deposits beneath. During the autumn and winter months precipitation normally is sufficient to cause a substantial increase in the amount of water stored underground and in surface reservoirs within the report area, whereas in the summer most of the precipitation is lost through evaporation and transpiration, resulting in sharply reduced stream-flow and lowered ground-water levels. The mean monthly storage of water on an average is about 3.8 inches higher in November than it is in June.

The amount of water that flows through and out of the report area represents the total amount of water potentially available for use by man. For the 30-year period 1931 through 1960, the annual runoff from the report area has averaged nearly 26 inches (200 billion gallons), from the entire Thames River basin above Norwich about 24 inches (530 billion gallons), and from the Pawcatuck River basin about 26 inches (130 billion gallons). A total average annual runoff of 860 billion gallons is therefore available. Although runoff indicates the total amount of water potentially available, it is usually not economically feasible for man to use all of it. On the other hand, with increased development, it is possible that some water will be reused several times.

The water available may be tapped as it flows through the area or is temporarily stored in streams, lakes, and aquifers. The amounts that can be developed vary from place to place and time to time, depending on the amount of precipitation, on the size of drainage area, on the thickness, permeability, and areal extent of aquifers, and on the variations in chemical and physical quality of the water.

Differences in streamflow from point to point are due primarily to differences in the proportion of stratified drift in the drainage basin above each point, which affect the timing of streamflow, and to differences in precipitation, which affect the amount of streamflow.

Ground water can be obtained from wells almost anywhere in the area, but the amount obtainable at any particular point depends upon the type and water-bearing properties of the aquifers. For practical purposes, the earth materials in the report area comprise three aquifers--stratified drift, bedrock, and till.

Stratified drift is the only aquifer generally capable of yielding more than 100 gpm (gallons per minute) to individual wells. It covers about 20 percent of the area and occurs chiefly in lowlands where it overlies till and bedrock. The coefficient of permeability of the coarse-grained unit of stratified drift averages about 1,500 gbd (gallons per day) per sq ft. Drilled, screened wells tapping this unit are known to yield from 4 to 88o gpm and average 146 gpm. Dug wells in coarse-grained stratified drift supply about 2 gpm per foot of drawdown over a period of a few hours. Fine-grained stratified drift has an average coefficient of permeability of about 300 gpd per sq ft and can usually yield supplies sufficient for household use to dug wells.

Bedrock and till are widespread in extent but generally provide only small water supplies. Bedrock is tapped chiefly by drilled wells, about 90 percent of which will supply at least 3 gpm. Very few, however, will supply more than 50 gpm. Till is tapped in a few places by dug wells which can yield small supplies of only a few hundred gpd throughout all or most of the year. The coefficient of permeability of till ranges from about 0.2 gpd per sq ft to 120 gpd per sq ft.

The amount of ground water potentially available in the report area depends upon the amount of ground-water outflow, the amount of ground water in storage, and the quantity of water available by induced infiltration from streams and lakes. From data on permeability, saturated thickness, recharge, yield from aquifer storage, well performance, and streamflow, preliminary estimates of ground-water availability can be made for any point in the report area. Long-term yields estimated for 18 areas of stratified drift especially favorable for development of large ground-water supplies ranged from 1.3 to 66 mgd. Detailed site studies to determine optimum yields, drawdowns, and spacing of individual wells are needed before major ground-water development is undertaken in these or other areas.

The chemical quality of water in the report area is generally good to excellent. Samples of naturally occurring surface water collected at 24 sites contained less than 151 ppm (parts per million) of dissolved solids and less than 63 ppm of hardness. Water from wells is more highly mineralized than naturally occurring water from streams. Even so only 12 percent of the wells sampled yielded water with more than 200 ppm of dissolved solids and only 8 percent yielded water with more than 120 ppm of hardness.

Even in major streams, which are used to transport industrial waste, hardness rarely exceeds 60 ppm and the dissolved mineral content is generally less than 200 ppm. At a few places in the town of Montville however, waters may contain dissolved mineral concentrations of 2,000 to 4,000 ppm.

Iron and manganese in both ground water and surface water are the only constituents whose concentrations commonly exceed recommended limits for domestic and industrial use. Most wells in the report area yield clear water with little or no iron or manganese, but distributed among them are wells yielding ground water that contains enough of these dissolved constituents to be troublesome for most uses.

Iron concentrations in naturally occurring stream water exceed 0.3 ppm under low-flow conditions at 33 percent of the sites sampled. Large concentrations of iron in stream water result from discharge of iron-bearing water from aquifers or from swamps where it is released largely from decaying vegetation.

Ground water more than 30 feet below the land surface has a relatively constant temperature, usually between 48°F and 52°F. Water temperature in very shallow wells may fluctuate from about 38°F in February or March to about 55°F in late summer. Water temperature in the larger streams fluctuates much more widely, ranging from 32°F at least for brief periods in winter, to about 85°F occasionally during summer.

The quality of suspended sediment transported by streams in the area is negligible. Turbidity in streams is generally not a problem although amounts large enough to be troublesome may occur locally at times.

The total amount of water used in the report area for all purposes during 1964 was about 118,260 million gallons, of which 105,600 million gallons was estuarine water used for cooling by industry. The average per capita water use, excluding estuarine, temporary summer residence, and institutional water was equivalent to 186 gpd. Public water systems supplied the domestic needs of nearly tw0-thirds the population of the report area. All of the 19 systems, which were sampled, provided water of better quality than the U.S. Public Health Service suggests for drinking water standards.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1968
Title Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 3: lower Thames and southeastern coastal river basins
Authors Chester E. Thomas, Michael A. Cervione, I.G. Grossman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Series Title Connecticut Water Resources Bulletin
Series Number 15
Index ID 70038235
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse