The Quinnipiac River basin area in southcentral Connecticut covers 363 square miles, and includes all drainage basins that enter Long Island Sound from the Branford to the Wepawaug Rivers. Its population in 1970 was estimated at 535,000. Precipitation averages 47 inches per year and provides an abundant supply of water. Twenty-one inches returns to the atmosphere as evapotranspiration; the remainder flows directly to streams or percolates to the water table and discharges to Long Island Sound. Small amounts of water are exported from the basin by the New Britain Water Department, and small amounts are imported to the basin by the New Haven Water Company.
The amount of water that can be developed at a given place depends upon precipitation, variability of streamflow, hydraulic properties and areal extent of the aquifers, and hydraulic connection between the aquifers and major streams. The quality of the water is determined by the physical environment and the effects of man.
Stratified drift is the only aquifer capable of large sustained yields of water to individual wells. Yields of 64 screened wells tapping stratified drift range from 17 to 2,000 gpm (gallons per minute); their median yield is 500 gpm.
Till is widespread and generally provides only small amounts of water. Wells in till normally yield only a few hundred gallons of water daily and commonly are inadequate during dry periods. Till is generally used only as an emergency or secondary source of water.
Bedrock aquifers underlie the entire report area and include sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rock types. These aquifers supply small but reliable quantities of water to wells throughout the basin and are the chief source for many nonurban homes and farms. About 90 percent of the wells tapping bedrock yield at least 2 pgm, and much larger yields are occasionally reported. Maximum well yields of 305 gpm for sedimentary, 75 gpm for igneous, and 200 gpm for metamorphic bedrock have been reported.
Water potentially available from stratified drift was estimated on the basis of hydraulic characteristics of the aquifers and evaluation of natural and induced recharge. Long-term yields estimated for 14 favorable areas of stratified drift range from 0.8 to 16.1 mgd (million gallons per day), but detailed verification studies are needed before development.
The natural quality of water in the report area is good. The water is generally low in dissolved solid and is soft to moderately hard. Surface water is less mineralized than ground water, especially during high flow when it is primarily surface runoff. A median dissolved-solids concentration of 117 mg/l (milligrams per liter) and a median hardness of 58 mg/l was determined for water samples collected at 20 sites on 16 streams during high flow. A median dissolved-solids concentration of 146 mg/l and a median hardness of 82 mg/l was determined for samples collected at the same sites during low flow. In contrast water from 130 wells had a median dissolved-solids concentration of 188 mg/l and a median hardness of 110 mg/l.
Iron and manganese occur in objectionable concentrations in parts of the report area, particularly in water from streams draining swamps and in water from aquifers rich in iron- and manganese-bearing minerals. Concentrations of iron in excess of 0.3 mg/l were found in 40 percent of the high-streamflow samples, 59 percent of the low-streamflow samples and 20 percent of the ground-water samples.
Human activities have modified the quality of water in much of the basin. Wide and erratic fluctuations in concentration of dissolved solids in streams, high bacterial content of the Quinnipiac River, and locally high nitrate and chloride concentrations in ground water are evidence of man‘s influence. Streams, wetlands, and some aquifers along the southern boundary of the basin contain salty water. Overpumping has caused extensive saltwater intrusion in aquifers in the southern and eastern parts of New Haven.
The total amount of fresh water used in the area during 1970 is estimated at 35,710 million gallons, or 183 gallons per day per capita. Public water-supply systems met the domestic requirements of about 90 percent of the population; all the systems supplied water that met the drinking water standards of the Connecticut Department of Health.