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Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 7: upper Connecticut River basin

January 1, 1981

The 508 square miles of the upper Connecticut River basin in north-central Connecticut include the basins of four major tributaries: the Scantic, Park, and Hockanum Rivers, and the Farmington River downstream from Tariffville. Precipitation over this area averaged 44 inches per year during 1931-60. In this period, an additional 3,800 billion gallons of water per year entered the basin in the main stem of the Connecticut River at the Massachusetts state line, about 230 billion gallons per year in the Farmington River at Tariffville, and about 10 billion gallons per year in the Seantic River at the Massachusetts state line. Some water was also imported from outside the basin by water-supply systems. About half the precipitation, 22.2 inches, was lost from the basin by evapotranspiration; the remainder flowed out of the study area in the Connecticut River at Portland.

Variations in streamflow at 41 long-term continuous-record gaging stations are summarized in standardized graphs and tables that can be used to estimate streamflow characteristics at other sites. For example, mean-flow and two low-flow characteristics: (1) the 7-day annual minimum flow for 2-year and (2) 10-year recurrence intervals, have been determined for many partial-record stations throughout the basin.

Of the 30 principal lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, two have usable storage capacities of more than 1 billion gallons. The maximum safe draft rate (regulated flow) of the largest of these, Shenipsit Lake at Rockville, is 6.5 million gallons per day for the 2-year and 30-year recurrence intervals (median and lowest annual flow).

Floods have occurred within each month of the year but in different years. The greatest known flood on the Connecticut River was in March 1936; it had a peak flow of 130,000 cubic feet per second at Hartford. Since then, major floods have been reduced by flood-control measures.

The major aquifers underlying the basin are composed of unconsolidated materials (stratified drift and till) and bedrock. Stratified drift overlies till and bedrock in valleys and lowlands in the eastern and western parts and in most of the broad central valley. The stratified drift generally ranges in thickness from 10 feet in small valleys to more than 200 feet in the Connecticut River Valley. Bedrock underlies the entire basin and is composed of (1) interbedded sedimentary and igneous rocks and (2) crystalline rocks.

Ground-water sources yield from several million gallons per day from large well fields to 1 gallon per minute from single wells. Yields of 100 gal/min or more are most commonly obtained from screened wells tapping stratified-drift aquifers; amounts can be calculated by use of a series of graphs in conjunction with estimates of aquifer transmissivity and thickness. Eighteen areas underlain by good aquifers are selected as the most favorable locations for large-scale development of ground water. Selection of these areas is based on estimates of aquifer characteristics and the amount of water potentially available from induced infiltration of streamflow at low-flow conditions.

Small to moderate water supplies can generally be obtained from any of the aquifers. Wells in bedrock yield at least a few gallons per minute at most sites. The probability of obtaining an adequate yield for domestic supply is greater in sedimentary than in crystalline bedrock and is also greater in stratified-drift overburden than in till.

Where unaffected by man's activities, the water is of the calcium magnesium bicarbonate type, is generally low to moderate in dissolved-solids concentration, and ranges from soft to hard. In general, streamflow is less mineralized than ground water, particularly when it consists largely of direct runoff. However, streams become more highly mineralized during low-flow conditions, when most flow consists of more highly mineralized water discharged from aquifers. The median dissolved-solids concentration in water from 25 stream sites was 113 mg/L (milligrams per liter) during high flow, and 148 mg/L during low flow within the study period. Iron and manganese occur naturally in objectionable concentrations in some streams draining swamps and in some waters draining from sedimentary bedrock which contains iron- and manganese-bearing minerals.

Man's activities have affected the water quality of streams in much of the area, particularly in the Hockanum and Park River basins. The degradation in quality in these streams is shown by wide and erratic changes in dissolved-solids concentration, excessive amounts of trace elements, a low dissolved-oxygen content, and abnormally high temperatures. Ground water within this area is degraded principally by induced infiltration of surface water that contains chemical wastes, by leachate from wastes stored or disposed of on the ground, and by effluents discharged from septic tanks.

The quantity and quality of water are satisfactory for a wide variety of uses, and, with suitable treatment, the water may be used for most purposes. The total amount of water used in 1968 was more than 100 billion gallons. About 80 percent of this was used for industrial purposes, and 90 percent of the industrial water was obtained from surface-water sources. About 85 percent of the population was supplied with water for domestic use by 15 major public and municipal systems and 25 private associations. Analyses of water from the 13 largest systems show generally good quality.

Publication Year 1981
Title Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 7: upper Connecticut River basin
Authors Robert B. Ryder, Mendall P. Thomas, Lawrence A. Weiss
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Series Title Connecticut Water Resources Bulletin
Series Number 24
Index ID 70038303
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse