Simulation of Groundwater Flow in the Regional Aquifer System on Long Island, New York, for Pumping and Recharge Conditions in 2005–15

Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5091
Prepared in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
By: , and 


  • Document: Report (35 MB pdf)
  • Data Releases:
    • USGS data release - Time domain electromagnetic surveys collected to estimate the extent of saltwater intrusion in Nassau and Queens Counties, New York, October-November 2017
    • USGS data release - MODFLOW–NWT and MODPATH6 used to simulate groundwater flow in the regional aquifer system on Long Island, New York, for pumping and recharge conditions in 2005–15
    • USGS data release - Aquifer texture data describing the Long Island aquifer system
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A three-dimensional groundwater-flow model was developed for the aquifer system of Long Island, New York, to evaluate (1) responses of the hydrologic system to changes in natural and anthropogenic hydraulic stresses, (2) the subsurface distribution of groundwater age, and (3) the regional-scale distribution of groundwater travel times and the source of water to fresh surface waters and coastal receiving waters. The model also provides the groundwater flow components used to define model boundaries for possible inset models used for local-scale analyses.

The three-dimensional, groundwater flow model developed for this investigation uses the numerical code MODFLOW–NWT to represent steady-state conditions for average groundwater pumping and aquifer recharge for 2005–15. The particle-tracking algorithm MODPATH, which simulates advective transport in the aquifer, was used to estimate groundwater age, delineate the areas at the water table that contribute recharge to coastal and freshwater bodies, and estimate total travel times of water from the water table to discharge locations.

A three-dimensional, 1-meter (3.3-foot) topobathymetric model was used to determine land-surface altitudes for the island and seabed altitudes for the surrounding coastal waters. The mapped extents and surface altitudes of major geologic units were compiled and used to develop a three-dimensional hydrogeologic framework of the aquifer system, including aquifers and confining units. Lithologic data from deep boreholes and previous aquifer-test results were used to estimate the three-dimensional distribution of hydraulic conductivity in principal aquifers. Natural recharge from precipitation was estimated for 2005–15 using a modified Thornthwaite-Mather methodology as implemented in a soil-water balance model. Components of anthropogenic recharge—wastewater return flow, storm water inflow, and inflow from leaky infrastructure—also were estimated for 2005–15. Groundwater withdrawals for various sources, including public water supply, industrial, remediation, and agricultural, were compiled or estimated for the same period.

These data were incorporated into the model development to represent the aquifer system geometry, boundaries, and initial hydraulic properties of the regional aquifers and confining units within the Long Island aquifer system. Average hydraulic conditions—water levels and streamflows—for 2005–15 were estimated using existing data from the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Information System database. Model inputs were adjusted to best match average hydrologic conditions using inverse methods as implemented in the parameter-estimating software PEST. The calibrated model was used to simulate average hydrologic conditions in the aquifer system for 2005–15.

About 656 cubic feet per second of water was withdrawn on average annually for 2005–15 for water supply and an average of about 349 cubic feet per second of water recharged the aquifer annually from return flow and leaky infrastructure. Parts of New York City have drawdowns exceeding 25 feet, mostly because of urbanization and associated large decreases in recharge rates. Large areas in the western part of the island have drawdowns exceeding 10 feet, mostly from large groundwater withdrawals and sewering, which largely eliminates wastewater return flow. Water-table altitudes in eastern parts of the island increased by more than 2 feet in some areas as a result of wastewater return flow in unsewered areas and changes in land use. Changes in streamflows show a similar pattern as water-table altitudes. Streamflows generally decrease in western parts of the island where there are large drawdowns and increase in eastern parts of the island where water-table altitudes increase.

Suggested Citation

Walter, D.A., Masterson, J.P., Finkelstein, J.S., Monti, J., Jr., Misut, P.E., and Fienen, M.N., 2020, Simulation of groundwater flow in the regional aquifer system on Long Island, New York, for pumping and recharge conditions in 2005–15: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5091, 75 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Data Compilation and Analysis
  • Development and Calibration of the Numerical Model
  • Simulation of Groundwater Flow
  • Limitations of Analysis
  • Summary
  • Selected References
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Simulation of groundwater flow in the regional aquifer system on Long Island, New York, for pumping and recharge conditions in 2005–15
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2020-5091
DOI 10.3133/sir20205091
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) New England Water Science Center, New York Water Science Center
Description Report: ix, 75 p.; 3 Data Releases
Country United States
State New York
Other Geospatial Long Island
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
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