The Rhode Island Water Resources Board is considering expanded use of ground-water resources from the Big River area because increasing water demands in Rhode Island may exceed the capacity of current sources. This report describes the hydrology of the area and numerical simulation models that were used to examine effects of ground-water withdrawals during 1964?98 and to describe potential effects of different withdrawal scenarios in the area.
The Big River study area covers 35.7 square miles (mi2) and includes three primary surface-water drainage basins?the Mishnock River Basin above Route 3, the Big River Basin, and the Carr River Basin, which is a tributary to the Big River. The principal aquifer (referred to as the surficial aquifer) in the study area, which is defined as the area of stratified deposits with a saturated thickness estimated to be 10 feet or greater, covers an area of 10.9 mi2. On average, an estimated 75 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) of water flows through the study area and about 70 ft3/s flows out of the area as streamflow in either the Big River (about 63 ft3/s) or the Mishnock River (about 7 ft3/s). Numerical simulation models are used to describe the hydrology of the area under simulated predevelopment conditions, conditions during 1964?98, and conditions that might occur in 14 hypothetical ground-water withdrawal scenarios with total ground-water withdrawal rates in the area that range from 2 to 11 million gallons per day. Streamflow depletion caused by these hypothetical ground-water withdrawals is calculated by comparison with simulated flows for the predevelopment conditions, which are identical to simulated conditions during the 1964?98 period but without withdrawals at public-supply wells and wastewater recharge. Interpretation of numerical simulation results indicates that the three basins in the study area are in fact a single ground-water resource. For example, the Carr River Basin above Capwell Mill Pond is naturally losing water to the Mishnock River Basin. Withdrawals in the Carr River Basin can deplete streamflows in the Mishnock River Basin. Withdrawals in the Mishnock River Basin deplete streamflows in the Big River Basin and can intercept water flowing to the Flat River Reservoir North of Hill Farm Road in Coventry, Rhode Island. Withdrawals in the Big River Basin can deplete streamflows in the western unnamed tributary to the Carr River, but do not deplete streamflows in the Mishnock River Basin or in the Carr River upstream of Capwell Mill Pond. Because withdrawals deplete streamflows in the study area, the total amount of ground water that may be withdrawn for public supply depends on the minimum allowable streamflow criterion that is applied for each basin.