Water use and availability in the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck River basins, north-central Rhode Island

Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5031




The Woonasquatucket River Basin includes 51.0 square miles, and the Moshassuck River Basin includes 23.8 square miles in north-central Rhode Island. The study area comprises these two basins. The two basins border each other with the Moshassuck River Basin to the northeast of the Woonasquatucket River Basin. Seven towns are in the Woonasquatucket River Basin, and six towns are in the Moshassuck River Basin. To determine the water use and availability in the study area, water supply and discharge data were collected for these river basins for the 1995-99 period, and compared to estimated long-term water available. The study area is unique in the State of Rhode Island, because no withdrawals from major public suppliers were made during the study period. Withdrawals were, therefore, limited to self-supplied domestic use, two minor suppliers, and one self-supplied industrial user. Because no metered data were available, the summer water withdrawals were assumed to be the same as the estimates for the rest of the year. Seven major water suppliers distribute an average of 17.564 million gallons per day for use in the study area from sources outside of the study area. The withdrawals from minor water suppliers were 0.017 million gallons per day in the study area, all in the town of Smithfield in the Woonasquatucket River Basin. The remaining withdrawals in the study area were estimated to be 0.731 million gallons per day by self-supplied domestic, commercial, industrial, and agricultural users. Return flows in the study area included self-disposed water and disposal from permitted dischargers, including the Smithfield Sewage Treatment Plant. Return flows accounted for 4.116 million gallons per day in the study area. Most public-disposed water (15.195 million gallons per day) is collected by the Narragansett Bay Commission and is disposed outside of the basin in Narragansett Bay. The PART program, a computerized hydrograph-separation application, was used at one index stream-gaging station to determine water availability based on the 75th, 50th, and 25th percentiles of the total base flow, the base flow minus the 7-day, 10-year flow criteria, and the base flow minus the Aquatic Base Flow criteria. The index station selected was the Branch River at Forestdale, which is close to the study area and has a similar percentage of sand and gravel area. Water availability was estimated on the basis of baseflow contributions from sand and gravel deposits and till deposits at the index station. Flows were computed for June, July, August, and September 1957-2000, and a percentage of the total flow was determined to come from either sand and gravel deposits, or till, by using a regression equation. The base-flow contributions were converted to a flow per unit area at the station for the till and for the sand and gravel deposits and then applied to the deposits in the study area basins. These values were used to estimate the gross yield of base flow, as well as to subtract the two low flows (7-day, 10-year flow, and Aquatic Base Flow criteria). The results from the Branch River stream-gaging station were lowest in August at the 75th, 50th, and 25th percentile for total flow with either flow criteria subtracted. The estimated August gross yield at the 50th percentile from the Woonasquatucket River Basin was 12.94 million gallons per day, and 5.91 million gallons per day from the Moshassuck River Basin. A ratio was calculated that is equal to total withdrawals divided by water availability. Water-availability flow scenarios at the 75th, 50th, and 25th percentiles for the basins, which are based on total water available from base-flow contributions from till and sand and gravel deposits in the basins, were assessed. The ratios were the highest in July for the 50th percentile estimated gross yield minus Aquatic Base Flow (ABF) flow criteria, where withdrawals are close to the available water. Ratios are not presented if the available wat

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Water use and availability in the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck River basins, north-central Rhode Island
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Scientific Investigations Report
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44 p.