Water-quality assessment of the Connecticut, Housatonic, and Thames river basins study unit; analysis of available data on nutrients, suspended sediments, and pesticides, 1972-92

Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4203

, , , ,



This retrospective report examines available nutrient, suspended sediment, and pesticide data in surface and ground water in the Connecticut, Housatonic and Thames Rivers Study Unit of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. The purpose of this study is to improve the under- standing of natural and anthropogenic factors affecting water quality in the study unit. Water-quality data were acquired from various sources, primarily, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The report examines data for water years 1972-92, focusing on 1980-92, although it also includes additional data from as early as 1905. The study unit lies within the New England Physiographic Province and altitudes range from sea level in coastal Connecticut to 6,288 feet above sea level at Mount Washington, New Hampshire. Two major aquifer types underlie the study unit--unconsolidated glacial deposits and fractured bedrock. The climate generally is temperate and humid, with four distinct seasons. Average annual precipitation ranges from 34 to 65 inches. The study unit has a population of about 4.5 million, which is most highly concentrated in southwestern Connecticut and along the south-central region of the Connecticut River Valley. Surface-water-quality data were screened to provide information about sites with adequate numbers of analyses (50) over sufficiently long periods (1980-90) to enable valid statistical analyses. In order to compare effects of different types of land use on surface-water quality, examination of data required application of several statistical and graphical techniques, including mapping, histograms, boxplots, concentration-discharge plots, trend analysis, and load estimation. Spatial and temporal analysis of surface-water-quality data indicated that, with a single exception, only/stations in the Connecticut water-quality network had sufficient data collected over adequately long time periods to use in detailed analyses. Ground-water nutrient and pesticide data were compiled from several Federal and State agencies, primarily the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Connecticut Department of Health Services. Nutrient data were available for several thousand wells; nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen was the most commonly reported constituent. Most wells with nutrient data are in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Relative to nutrient data in ground and surface water, pesticide data are less common. Pesticide data were available for slightly more than 200 surface-water sites and less than 500 wells; about 95 percent of the wells are completed in stratified-drift or till aquifers. Data for 81 pesticide compounds were available in various data bases. 2,4-D and silvex were the most commonly detected herbicides in surface water and dieldrin and diazinon were the most commonly detected insecticides. Most surface-water pesticide samples and detections are from bed sediment, but much of the data are not recent. Ethylene dibromide (EDB), a soil fumigant used in tobacco farming was detected in 268 well in a 50 square-mile area of north-central Connecticut; EDB contamination also was detected in wells in Massachusetts. Atrazine, an herbicide commonly used in corn farming, commonly was detected in wells installed in tilled agricultural fields. Corn herbicides were commonly detected in the northern par( of the study unit, although the sampling has been less frequent than in the southern part of the study unit. Pesticides were seldom detected in public-supply wells in Connecticut. Urban sites with relatively high population densities and high concentrations of dischargers were characterized by having the highest nutrient concentrations and loads when adjusted for differences in drainage area or population. Particularly, the Pequabuck, Naugatuck, and Quinnipiac River Basins were characterized by high nutrient concentrations--median total nitrogen concentrations ranged from 3.3 to 4.2 mg

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Water-quality assessment of the Connecticut, Housatonic, and Thames river basins study unit; analysis of available data on nutrients, suspended sediments, and pesticides, 1972-92
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
x, 162 p. :ill., maps (some col.) ;28 cm.