The factors that affect stream-water quality were studied at West Branch Swift River (Swift River), and East Branch Fever Brook (Fever Brook), two forested watersheds that drain into the Quabbin Reservoir, central Massachusetts, from December 1983 through August 1985. Spatial and temporal variations of chemistry of precipitation, surface water; and ground water and the linkages between chemical changes and hydrologic processes were used to identify the mechanisms that control stream chemistry. Precipitation chemistry was dominated by hydrogen ion (composite p.H 4.23), sulfate, and nitrate. Inputs of hydrogen and nitrate from pre- cipitation were almost entirely retained in the basins, whereas input of sulfate was approximately balanced by export by streamflow draining the basins. Both streams were poorly buffered, with mean pH near 5.7, mean alkalinity less than 30 microequivalents per liter, and sulfate concen- trations greater than 130 microequivalents per liter. Sodium and chloride, derived primarily from highway deicing salts, were the dominant solutes at Fever Brook. After adjustments for deicing salts, fluxes of base cations during the 21-month study were 2,014 and 1,429 equivalents per hectare in Swift River and Fever Brook, respectively. Base cation fluxes were controlled primarily by weathering of hornblende (Fever Brook) and plagioclase (Swift River). The overall weathering rate was greater in the Swift River Basin because easily weathered gabbro underlies one subbasin which comprises 11.2 percent of the total basin area but contributed about 77 percent of the total alkalinity. Alkalinity export was nearly equal in the two basins, however, because some alkalinity was generated in wetlands in the Fever Brook Basin through bacterial sulfate reduction coupled with organic-carbon oxidation.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Factors affecting water quality and net flux of solutes in two stream basins in the Quabbin Reservoir drainage basin, central Massachusetts,1983-85
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey ;
USGS Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],