A precipitation-runoff model for the analysis of the effects of water withdrawals and land-use change on streamflow in the Usquepaug-Queen River Basin, Rhode Island

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5139




The 36.1-square-mile UsquepaugQueen River Basin in south-central Rhode Island is an important water resource. Streamflow records indicate that withdrawals may have diminished flows enough to affect aquatic habitat. Concern over the effect of withdrawals on streamflow and aquatic habitat prompted the development of a Hydrologic Simulation ProgramFORTRAN (HSPF) model to evaluate the water-management alternatives and land-use change in the basin. Climate, streamflow, and water-use data were collected to support the model development. A logistic-regression equation was developed for long-term simulations to predict the likelihood of irrigation, the primary water use in the basin, from antecedent potential evapotranspiration and precipitation for generating irrigation demands. The HSPF model represented the basin by 13 pervious-area and 2 impervious-area land-use segments and 20 stream reaches. The model was calibrated to the period January 1, 2000 to September 30, 2001, at three continuous streamflow-gaging stations that monitor flow from 10, 54, and 100 percent of the basin drainage area. Hydrographs and flow-duration curves of observed and simulated discharges, along with statistics compiled for various model-fit metrics, indicate a satisfactory model performance. The calibrated HSPF model was modified to evaluate streamflow (1) under no withdrawals to streamflow under current (200001) withdrawal conditions under long-term (19602001) climatic conditions, (2) under withdrawals by the former Ladd School water-supply wells, and (3) under fully developed land use. The effects of converting from direct-stream withdrawals to ground-water withdrawals were evaluated outside of the HSPF model by use of the STRMDEPL program, which calculates the time delayed response of ground-water withdrawals on streamflow depletion. Simulated effects of current withdrawals relative to no withdrawals indicate about a 20-percent decrease in the lowest mean daily streamflows at the basin outlet, but withdrawals have little effect on flows that are exceeded less than about 90 percent of the time. Tests of alternative model structures to evaluate model uncertainty indicate that the lowest mean daily flows ranged between 3 and 5 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) without withdrawals and 2.2 to 4 ft3/s with withdrawals. Changes in the minimum daily streamflows are more pronounced, however; at the upstream streamflow-gaging station, a minimum daily flow of 0.2 ft3/s was sustained without withdrawals, but simulations with withdrawals indicate that the reach would stop flowing part of a day about 5 percent of the time. The effect on streamflow of potential ground-water withdrawals of 0.20, 0.90, and 1.78 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) at the former Ladd School near the central part of the basin were evaluated. The lowest daily mean flows in model reach 3, the main stem of the Queen River closest to the pumped wells, decreased by about 50 percent for withdrawals of 0.20 Mgal/d (from about 0.4 to 0.2 ft3/s) in comparison to current withdrawals. Reach 3 would occasionally stop flowing during part of the day at the 0.20-Mgal/d withdrawal rate because of diurnal fluctuation in streamflow. The higher withdrawal rates (0.90 and 1.78 Mgal/d) would cause reach 3 to stop flowing about 10 to 20 percent of the time, but the effects of pumping rapidly diminished downstream because of tributary inflows. Simulation results indicate little change in the annual 1-, 7-, and 30-day low flows at the 0.20 Mgal/d pumping rate, but at the 1.78 Mgal/d pumping rate, reach 3 stopped flowing for nearly a 7-day period every year and for a 30-day period about every other year. At the 0.90 Mgal/d pumping rate, reach 3 stopped flowing about every other year for a 7-day period and about once every 5 years for a 30-day period. Land-use change was simulated by converting model hydrologic-response units (HRUs) representing undeveloped areas to HRUs representing developed areas o

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A precipitation-runoff model for the analysis of the effects of water withdrawals and land-use change on streamflow in the Usquepaug-Queen River Basin, Rhode Island
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Scientific Investigations Report
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86 p.