Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 9: Farmington River basin

Connecticut Water Resources Bulletin 29

Prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
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The Farmington River basin covers 435 square miles in north-central Connecticut upstream from Tariffville and downstream of the Massachusetts state line. Most water in the basin is derived from precipitation, which averages 48 inches (366 billion gallons) per year. An additional 67 billion gallons of water per year enters the basin from Massachusetts in the West Branch of the Farmington River, Hubbard River, Valley Brook and some smaller streams. Of the total 433 billion gallons, 174 billion gallons returns to the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration. 239 billion gallons flows out of the study area in the Farmington River at Tariffville, and 20 billion gallons is diverted for Hartford water supply. Variations in streamflow at 23 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 low-flow characteristics such as the 7-day annual minimum flow for 2-year and 10-year recurrence intervals, have been determined for many partial-record stations from the data for the 23 continuous-record stations. Of the 31 principal lakes, ponds, and reservoirs in the basin, eight have usable storage capacities of more than 1 billion gallons. Two of the largest, Colebrook River Lake and Barkhamsted Reservoir, have more than 30 billion gallons usable storage. Floods have occurred in the area in every month of the year. The greatest known flood on the Farmington River was in August 1955, which had a peak flow of 140,000 cubic feet per second at Collinsville. Since then, three major floodcontrol reservoirs have been constructed to reduce the hazards of high streamflow. The major aquifers underlying the basin are composed of unconsolidated materials (stratified drift and till) and bedrock (sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic). Stratified drift overlies till and bedrock in valleys and lowlands; it averages about 90 feet in thickness, and is capable of large sustained yields of water to individual wells. Based on hydrologic characteristics and available recharge, sixteen stratified-drift areas are selected as the most favorable for large-scale development. Potential yields can be estimated by several methods. Small water supplies can be obtained from all aquifers. Wells in bedrock yield at least one to two gallons per minute at most sites. The probability of adequate yields for domestic supply is greater from sedimentary than from crystalline bedrock and is also greater from stratified-drift overburden than from till. The quality of water from all sources in the basin is good except where adversely affected by swamp drainage, aquifer composition or human activities. The water is generally low in dissolved-solids concentration and is soft to moderately hard. Surface water is less mineralized than ground water, especially during high-flow conditions when it is primarily direct runoff. Samples of water collected from 20 streams during high flow had 34 mg/L median dissolved-solids concentration and 16 mg/L median hardness. Samples collected from the same sites at low flow had 52 mg/L median dissolved solids and 28 mg/L median hardness. In contrast, water from wells had 112 mg/L median dissolved-solids concentration and 60 mg/L median hardness. Iron and manganese occur in objectionable concentrations ~n a few parts of the basin where streams drain swamps and aquifers are rich in iron- and manganese-bearing minerals. Five percent of streams at high flow, 21 percent at low flow, and 7 percent of ground-water samples contained iron in sufficient concentration to cause stains on plumbing fixtures and laundry. Human activities have modified the quality of water in parts of the basin. The high bacterial content of the Pequabuck River. and the high nitrate and chloride concentrations in some ground-water samples, are evidence of man’s influence. The quantity and quality of water in the basin’s streams and aquifers are satisfactory for a wide variety of uses. and, with suitable treatment, may be used for most purposes. The total amount of water used by 21 principal public supplies within the basin was 29 billion gallons in 1970. About 70 percent of this was used for domestic and commercial purposes, and nearly 30 percent was used by industry. Analyses of water from these systems show good quality.

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Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
State/Local Government Series
Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 9: Farmington River basin
Series title:
Connecticut Water Resources Bulletin
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Year Published:
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
Report: viii, 91 p.; 4 Plates: 38.67 x 42.36 inches and smaller
United States
Other Geospatial:
Farmington River Basin
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