Effects of low-impact-development (LID) practices on streamflow, runoff quantity, and runoff quality in the Ipswich River Basin, Massachusetts-A Summary of field and modeling studies

Circular 1361

Prepared in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
, , , and



Low-impact-development (LID) approaches are intended to create, retain, or restore natural hydrologic and water-quality conditions that may be affected by human alterations. Wide-scale implementation of LID techniques may offer the possibility of improving conditions in river basins, such as the Ipswich River Basin in Massachusetts, that have run dry during the summer because of groundwater withdrawals and drought. From 2005 to 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey, in a cooperative funding agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, monitored small-scale installations of LID enhancements designed to diminish the effects of storm runoff on the quantity and quality of surface water and groundwater. Funding for the studies also was contributed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Targeted Watersheds Grant Program through a financial assistance agreement with Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. The monitoring studies examined the effects of * replacing an impervious parking-lot surface with a porous surface on groundwater quality, * installing rain gardens and porous pavement in a neighborhood of 3 acres on the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff, and * installing a 3,000-ft2 (square-foot) green roof on the quantity and quality of rainfall-generated roof runoff. In addition to these small-scale installations, the U.S. Geological Survey's Ipswich River Basin model was used to simulate the basin-wide effects on streamflow of several changes: broad-scale implementation of LID techniques, reduced water-supply withdrawals, and water-conservation measures. Water-supply and conservation scenarios for application in model simulations were developed with the assistance of two technical advisory committees that included representatives of State agencies responsible for water resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, water suppliers, and non-governmental organizations. From June 2005 to June 2007, groundwater quality was monitored at the Silver Lake town beach parking lot in Wilmington, Massachusetts, prior to and following the replacement of the conventional, impervious-asphalt surface with a porous surface consisting primarily of porous asphalt and porous pavers designed to enhance rainfall infiltration into the groundwater and to minimize runoff to Silver Lake. Concentrations of phosphorus, nitrogen, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc, and total petroleum hydrocarbons in groundwater were monitored. Enhancing infiltration of precipitation did not result in discernible increases in concentrations of these potential groundwater contaminants. Concentrations of dissolved oxygen increased slightly in groundwater profiles following the removal of the impervious asphalt parking-lot surface. In Wilmington, Massachusetts, in a 3-acre neighborhood, stormwater runoff volume and quality were monitored to determine the ability of selected LID enhancements (rain gardens and porous paving stones) to reduce flows and loads of the selected constituents to Silver Lake. Water-quality samples were analyzed for nutrients, metals, total petroleum hydrocarbons, and total-coliform and E. coli bacteria. A decrease in runoff quantity was observed for storms of 0.25 inch or less of precipitation. Water-quality-monitoring results were inconclusive; there were no statistically significant differences in concentrations or loads when the pre- and post-installation-period samples were compared. In a third field study, the characteristics of runoff from a vegetated 'green' roof and a conventional, rubber-membrane roof were compared. The two primary factors affecting the green roof's water-storage capacity were the amount of precipitation and antecedent dry period. Although concentrations of many of the chemicals in roof runoff were higher from the green roof than from the conventional roof, the ability of the green roof to retain w

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Effects of low-impact-development (LID) practices on streamflow, runoff quantity, and runoff quality in the Ipswich River Basin, Massachusetts-A Summary of field and modeling studies
Series title:
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Massachusetts-Rhode Island Water Science Center
40 p.
Lambert Conformal Conic Projection
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):