Concerns over the state of water resources in Rockland County, NY, prompted an assessment of current (2005-07) conditions. The investigation included a review of all water resources but centered on the Newark basin aquifer, a fractured-bedrock aquifer over which nearly 300,000 people reside. Most concern has been focused on this aquifer because of (1) high summer pumping rates, with occasional entrained-air problems and an unexplained water-level decline at a monitoring well, (2) annual withdrawals that have approached or even exceeded previous estimates of aquifer recharge, and (3) numerous contamination problems that have caused temporary or long-term shutdown of production wells. Public water supply in Rockland County uses three sources of water in roughly equal parts: (1) the Newark basin sedimentary bedrock aquifer, (2) alluvial aquifers along the Ramapo and Mahwah Rivers, and (3) surface waters from Lake DeForest Reservoir and a smaller, new reservoir supply in the Highlands part of the county. Water withdrawals from the alluvial aquifer in the Ramapo River valley and the Lake DeForest Reservoir are subject to water-supply application permits that stipulate minimum flows that must be maintained downstream into New Jersey. There is a need, therefore, at a minimum, to prevent any loss of the bedrock-aquifer resource--to maintain it in terms of both sustainable use and water-quality protection. The framework of the Newark basin bedrock aquifer included characterization of (1) the structure and fracture occurrence associated with the Newark basin strata, (2) the texture and thickness of overlying glacial and alluvial deposits, (3) the presence of the Palisades sill and associated basaltic units on or within the Newark basin strata, and (4) the streams that drain the aquifer system. The greatest concern regarding sustainability of groundwater resources is the aquifer response to the seasonal increase in pumping rates from May through October (an average increase of 25 percent in 2005). In most cases, pump rates would have to be reduced as aquifer yield declines. This analysis underlines the fragility of the aquifer given the fact that recent years (2003-06) have been relatively wet. Impervious surfaces increase the amount of stormflow and decrease the amount of base flow in streams. Analysis of stormflows in watersheds with 11.9 and 17 percent impervious surface area increased the percentage of rainfall that becomes stormflow in streams by 7 to 8 percent and by 12.5 to 16.5 percent, respectively. Recharge was estimated from streamflow data and from groundwater-level data. Estimates from across the county in 1961 ranged from 24.8 inches in the northwest (New York Highlands area) to 14.7 inches in the southeast. Water budgets were generated for three basins with streamflow data. During 1959-94 and in 2006, groundwater pumpage for public supply accounted for 12 to 24 percent of recharge within the Mahwah River near Suffern, NY, watershed. Public-supply pumpage as a percentage of recharge in 2006 at the two other currently gaged watersheds (Pascack Brook and Saddle River) was 18 and 21 percent, respectively. About 12.9 billion gallons of water was used in Rockland County in 2005. The majority (63 percent) was for base-line domestic supply (non-growing season rates of use); of this amount, about 6 percent was from domestic wells and 94 percent was from production wells and reservoirs. Commercial, industrial, and institutional users made up 10 percent of total water use, and growing-season increases accounted for 18 percent. Sanitary sewers serve much of Rockland County and the majority of treated wastewater is discharged to the Hudson River, which is an estuary with brackish water adjacent to Rockland County. Inflow of stormwater and infiltration of groundwater constitute a significant additional contribution of water to the sanitary sewer system.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water resources of Rockland County, New York, 2005-07, with emphasis on the Newark Basin Bedrock Aquifer