The upper Housatonic River basin report area has an abundant supply of water of generally good quality, which is derived from precipitation on the area and streams entering the area. Annual precipitation has averaged about 46 inches over a 30-year period. Of this, approximately 22 inches of water is returned to the atmosphere each year by evaporation and transpiration; the remainder flows overland to streams or percolates downward to the water table and ultimately flows out of the report area in the Housatonic River or in smaller streams tributary to the Hudson River. During the autumn and winter precipitation normally is sufficient to cause a substantial increase in the amount of water stored in surface reservoirs and in aquifers, whereas in the summer, losses through evaporation and transpiration result in sharply reduced streamflow and lowered ground-water levels. Mean monthly storage of water in November is 2.8 inches more than it is in June.
The amount of water that flows into, through, and out of the report area represents the total amount potentially available for use ignoring reuse. For the 30-year period 1931 through 1960, the annual runoff from precipitation has averaged 24 inches (294 billion gallons). During the same period, inflows from Massachusetts and New York have averaged 220 and 64 billion gallons per year, respectively. A total average annual runoff of 578 billion gallons is therefore available. Although runoff indicates the total amount of water potentially available, it is rarely feasible to use all of it. On the other hand, with increased development, some water may be reused several times.
The water availability may be tapped as it flows through the area or is temporarily stored in streams, lakes, and aquifers. The amounts that can be developed differ from place to place and time to time, depending on the amount of precipitation, on the size of drainage area, on the thickness, transmissivity, and areal extent of aquifers, and on the variations in chemical and physical quality of water.
Differences in precipitation cause differences in the amount of streamflow whereas differences in the proportion of stratified drift affect its timing.
Water can be obtained from wells almost anywhere in the area, but the amount obtainable at any particular point depends on the type and water-bearing properties of the aquifers tapped.
Stratified-drift aquifers are the only ones generally capable of yielding more than 100 gpm (gallons per minute) to individual wells. Drilled, screened wells tapping this unit yield from 17 to 1,400 gpm, with a median yield of 200 gpm.
Till and bedrock are widespread but generally provide only small supplies of water. Till is tapped in a few places by dug wells, which can yield small supplies of only a few hundred gallons per day throughout all or most of the year. Bedrock is the chief aquifer for privately owned domestic and rural supplies; it is tapped by drilled wells, about 90 percent of which will supply at least 2 gpm. Only 1 of 10 bedrock wells, however, will supply more than 30 gpm.
The amount of ground water potentially available in the report area depends upon the thickness and hydraulic properties of aquifers, the amount of salvageable natural discharge of ground water, and the quantity of water available by induced infiltration from streams and lakes. From data on transmissivity, thickness, recharge, well performance, and streamflow, preliminary estimates of ground-water availability can be made for most stratified-drift aquifers in the report area. Long-term yields estimated for eight areas of stratified drift especially favorable for development of large ground-water supplies ranged from 0.6 to 5 mgd (million gallons per day). Detailed site studies are needed to verity these estimates and to determine optimum yields, drawdowns, and spacing of individual wells before major ground-water development is undertaken in these or other areas.
The chemical quality of water in the report area is generally good; carbonate-bedrock units exert considerable local influence on water quality. Samples of naturally occurring surface water collected at 24 sites during low flow averaged 90 mg/l (milligrams per liter) dissolved solids and 60 mg/l hardness. Water from wells is generally more highly mineralized than naturally occurring water from streams. About 37 percent of the wells sampled yielded water with more than 200 mg/l dissolved solids and 50 percent yielded water with more than 120 mg/l hardness. These concentrations reflect the high degree of mineralization of ground water in carbonate bedrock and unconsolidated deposits derived from this bedrock. The larger streams, which transport varying amounts of industrial and domestic effluents, averaged about 150 mg/l dissolved solids and 90 mg/l hardness.
Iron and manganese concentrations in both ground water and surface water at some places exceed recommended limits for domestic and industrial use. Most wells in the report area yield water with little or no iron or manganese. In certain localities however, the probability is high of encountering water with excessive concentrations of these constituents. Schists, especially the unit in the northwestern corner of the basin, are the likely sources of water with excessive iron and manganese.
Iron concentrations in naturally occurring stream water exceed 0.3 mg/l under low-flow conditions at 29 percent of the sites sampled. These excessive concentrations result from discharge of iron-bearing water from aquifers or from swamps where iron is released from decaying vegetation.
Water temperature in the larger streams ranges from 0°C (degrees Celsius) to about 28°C. Ground water between 30 feet and 200 feet below the land surface has a relatively constant temperature, usually between 8°C and 11°C.
The quantity of suspended sediment transported by streams under natural conditions is negligible. Even in streams affected by man, turbidity is rarely a problem.
The total amount of water used in the report area for all purposes during 1967 was about 6,360 million gallons, or 140 gpd per person. Public supplies furnished the domestic needs of nearly half the population of the area. All of the 14 public supplies sampled provided water that meets the drinking water standards of the U.S. Public Health Service.