In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the town of Bar Harbor, Maine, and the National Park Service, conducted a study to assess the quantity of water in the bedrock units underlying Mt. Desert Island, and to estimate water use, recharge, and dilution of nutrients from domestic septic systems overlying the bedrock units in several watersheds in rural Bar Harbor.
Water quantity was calculated as the static volume of water in the top 600 feet of saturated thickness of the bedrock units. Volumes of water were estimated on the basis of effective fracture porosities for the five different rock types found on Mt. Desert Island. Values of porosities for the various bedrock units from the literature range more than five orders of magnitude, although the possible range in porosities for most individual rock types is on the order of three orders of magnitude. The static volume of water in the various units may range from a low of 4,000 gallons per acre for intrusive igneous rocks (primarily granites) to 20 million gallons per acre for the Cranberry Island Volcanics, but given the range in porosity estimates, these numbers can vary by orders of magnitude.
Water-use data for the municipal water supply in the Town of Bar Harbor (1998-2000) indicate that residential usage averages 225 gallons per household per day. Recharge to the bedrock units in rural Bar Harbor was bracketed using low, medium, and high estimates, which were 3, 9, and 14 inches per year, respectively. Water use in 2001 was about 2.5 percent of the total estimated medium recharge (9 inches per year) in the study area.
Dilution of nitrogen in septic effluent discharging to the bedrock aquifer was evaluated for the development density in 2001. On the basis of an assumed concentration of 47 mg/L of nitrogen in septic system discharge, dilution factors in populated rural Bar Harbor watersheds ranged from 4 to 151, for the housing density in 2001. Understanding that ground water in this fractured bedrock system mixes slowly, the fully mixed average nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in ground water estimated for the watersheds ranged from 0.1 to 11 mg/L.