An investigation of recharge basins on Long Island was made by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Nassau County Department of Public Works, Suffolk County Department of Environmental Control, and Suffolk County Water Authority. The major objectives of the study were to (1) catalog basic physical data on the recharge basins in use on Long Island, (2) measure quality and quantity of precipitation and inflow, (3) measure infiltration rates at selected recharge basins, and (4) evaluate regional effects of recharge basins on the hydrologic system of Long Island. The area of study consists of Nassau and Suffolk Counties -- about 1,370 square miles -- in eastern Long Island, N.Y.
Recharge basins, numbering more than 2,100 on Long Island in 1969, are open pits in moderately to highly permeable sand and gravel deposits. These pits are used to dispose of storm runoff from residential, industrial, and commercial areas, and from highways, by infiltration of the water through the bottom and sides of the basins.
The hydrology of three recharge basins on Long Island -- Westbury, Syosset, and Deer Park basins -- was studied. The precipitation-inflow relation showed that the average percentages of precipitation flowing into each basin were roughly equivalent to the average percentages of impervious areas in the total drainage areas of the basins. Average percentages of precipitation flowing into the basins as direct runoff were 12 percent at the Westbury basin, 10 percent at the Syosset basin, and 7 percent at the Deer Park basin. Numerous open-bottomed storm-water catch basins at Syosset and Deer Park reduced the proportion of inflow to those basins, as compared with the Westbury basin, which has only a few open-bottomed catch basins.
Inflow hydrographs for each basin typify the usual urban runoff hydrograph -- steeply rising and falling limbs, sharp peaks, and short time bases. Unit hydrographs for the Westbury and the Syosset basins are not expected to change; however, the unit hydrograph for the Deer Park basin is expected to broaden somewhat as a result of additional future house construction within the drainage area.
Infiltration rates averaged 0.9 fph (feet per hour) for 63 storms between July 1967 and May 1970 at the Westbury recharge basin, 0.8 fph for 22 storms from July 1969 to September 1970 at the Syosset recharge basin, and 0.2 fph for 24 storms from March to September 1970 at the Deer Park recharge basin. Low infiltration rates at Deer Park resulted mainly from (1) a high percentage of eroded silt, clay, and organic debris washed in from construction sites in the drainage area, which partly filled the interstices of the natural deposits, and (2) a lack of a well-developed plant-root system on the floor of the younger basin, which would have kept the soil zone more permeable.
The apparent rate of movement of storm water through the unsaturated zone below each basin averaged 5.5 fph at Westbury, 3.7 fph at Syosset, and 3.1 fph at Deer Park. The rates of movement for storms during the warm months (April through October) were slightly higher than average, probably because the recharging water was warmer than it was during the rest of the year, and therefore, was slightly less viscous.
On the average, a 1-inch rainfall resulted in a peak rise of the water table directly below each basin of 0.5 foot; a 2-inch rainfall resulted in a peak rise of about 2 feet. The mound commonly dissipated within 1 to 4 days at Westbury, 7 days to more than 15 days at Syosset, and 1 to 3 days at Deer Park, depending on the magnitude of the peak buildup.
Average annual ground-water recharge was estimated to be 6.4 acre-feet at the Westbury recharge basin, 10.3 acre-feet at the Syosset recharge basin, and 29.6 acre-feet at the Deer Park recharge basin.
Chemical composition of precipitation at Westbury, Syosset, and Deer Park drainage areas was similar: