Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 10: Lower Connecticut River basin

Connecticut Water Resources Bulletin 31

Prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
, ,



The lower Connecticut River basin study area in south-central Connecticut includes 639 square miles and is drained principally by the Connecticut River and by seven smaller streams that flow directly to Long Island Sound between the West River on the west and the Connecticut River on the east. The population in 1979 was estimated to be 210,380. Much of the industrial development and population centers are in the Mattabesset River basin in the northwestern part, and the largest water use is also in the Mattabesset River basin.

Precipitation averages 47 inches per year and provides an abundant supply of water. About 20 inches returns to the atmosphere as evapotranspiration, and the remainder either flows directly to streams or percolates to the water table, eventually discharging to Long Island Sound. Small quantities of water are exported from the basin by the New Haven and Meridan Water Departments, and small quantities are imported by the New Britain Water Department and Metropolitan Direct Commission. Precipitation during 1931-60 resulted in an average annual runoff of 302 billion gallons. In inflow from the Connecticut River is added to the average annual runoff, the 4,370 billion gallon s per year is potentially available for water ue.

The domestic, institutional, commercial, and industrial (other than cooling water) water use for 1970 was 7 billion gallons, which is only 3 percent of the total water used, whereas 97 percent of the total is cooling water for power plants. Approximately 60 percent of the 7 billion gallons is treated before being discharged back to the streams.

The total amount of fresh water used during 1970 was estimated to be 256,000 million gallons (Mgal), of which 247,000 Mgal was used for cooling water at stream electric-generating plants. The quantity for domestic, commercial, industrial, and agricultural used was 9,000 Mgal, which was approximately 120 gallons a day per person. Public water systems providing 70 percent of these requirement and all the systems supplying water met the drinking water standards of the Connecticut General Assembly (1975).

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 may be inadequate during dry periods. The thickness of of till ranges from 0 to 15 feet; a median thickness of 26 feet is estimated from information provided in drillers' logs of 467 wells penetrating underlying bedrock. The till is generally used only as an emergency or secondary source of water.

Bedrock aquifers underlie the entire area and include sedimentary and crystalline (igneous and metamorphic) rock types. These aquifers supply small and usually reliable quantities of water to wells and are the chief source of water for many rural homes and farms., About 90 percent of the wells tapping bedrock yield at least 2 gal/min. The median yields from wells tapping aquifers in sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks are 11, 8, and 6.5 gal/min, respectively.

The quantity of water potentially available from stratified drift was estimated on the basis of hydraulic characteristics of the aquifers, mathematical modeling of the aquifer system, and evaluation of natural and induced recharge. Long-term yields estimated or ten areas underlain by significant thickness of stratified drift range from 0.4 to 4.4 million gallons per day (Mgal/d). A change in well spacing or numbering could increase the long-term yields, but detailed modeling verification studies are needed to confirm optimal well locations.

The chemical and physical (turbidity, color, taste, and sediment load) quality of water is good. The water if generally low in dissolved solids and is classified as soft to hard. Surface water is less mineralized than ground water, especially during high flow, when it is primarily derived from surface runoff rather than groundwater runoff. A median dissolved-solids concentration of 42 milligrams per liter (mg/L) and median hardness of 18 mg/L were determined from water samples collected from 26 streams during the high-flow period. During the low-flow period, median dissolved-solids concentration of 61 mg/L and median hardness of 27 mg/L were determined from sample from the same streams.

The quality of water in stratified-drift and crystalline-rock aquifers is generally better than that in the sedimentary-rock aquifers. Water from 32 wells tapping stratified drift had median dissolved-solids concentrations of 116 mg/L; and 33 wells tapping stratified drift and 42 tapping crystalline rock had median hardness of 73 mg/L and 68 mg/L, respectively. Water from 32 wells tapping sedimentary rock had median dissolved concentrations of 231 and 156 mg/L, respectively. Sedimentary rock generally yields the hardest water.

Iron and manganese occur objectionable concentrations in places, particularly in water from streams draining swamps and in water from aquifers either rich in iron and manganese-nearing minerals or where the reducing environment for solution of these minerals is favorable. Concentrations of iron in excess of 0.3 mg/L were found in 35 percent of the high streamflow samples, and in 45 percent of the ground-water samples. Most of the high iron and manganese concentration in streams and aquifers are found east of the Connecticut River.

Human activities and tidal influence along the coast have modified the quality of water in much f the study area. The greatest influence from human activities has been in the northwestern part, in the Mattabesset River basin. There, the quality of water has been affected by domestic and animal wastes, which cause high dissolved-solids concentrations, high nitrate and phosphate loads and high bacterial counts. In the entire area, high nitrate in groundwater occur only locally, and its presence in an individual water supply is chiefly a function of its proximity to sources of contamination, of well construction, and of thickness of overburden. Thirty public-supply wells did have water that had high sodium concentrations or objectionable iron and manganese concentrations, but these are not considered health hazards in the concentrations found in the water samples. Streams, wetlands, and some aquifers along the sough boundary of the basin contain salty water because of tidal movement or extensive ground-water withdrawals. High sediment concentrations also occur as a result of tidal influence in this area.

Geospatial Extents

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
State/Local Government Series
Water resources inventory of Connecticut Part 10: Lower Connecticut River basin
Series title:
Connecticut Water Resources Bulletin
Series number:
Year Published:
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
Report: viii, 85 p.; 5 Plates: 42.00 x 30.34 inches and smaller
Number of Pages:
United States
Other Geospatial:
Lower Connecticut River Basin
Additional Online Files(Y/N):