The lower Pawcatuck River basin in southwestern Rhode Island is an area of about 169 square miles underlain by crystalline bedrock over which lies a relatively thin mantle of glacial till and stratified drift. Stratified drift, consisting dominantly of sand and gravel, occurs in irregularly shaped linear deposits that are generally less than a mile wide and less than 125 feet thick; these deposits are found along the Pawcatuck River, its tributaries, and abandoned preglacial channels. Deposits of stratified sand and gravel constitute the principal aquifer in the lower Pawcatuck basin and the only one capable of sustaining yields of 100 gallons per minute or more to individual wells.
Water available for development in this aquifer consists of water in storage--potential ground-water runoff to streams--plus infiltration that can be induced from streams. Minimum annual ground-water runoff from the sand and gravel aquifer is calculated to be at least 1.17 cubic feet per second per square mile, or 0.76 million gallons per day per square mile. Potential recharge by induced infiltration is estimated to range from about 250 to 600 gallons per day per linear foot of streambed for the principal streams. In most areas, induced infiltration from streams constitutes the major source of water potentially available for development by wells.
Because subsurface hydraulic connection in the sand and gravel aquifer is poor in several places, the deposits are conveniently divisible into several ground-water reservoirs. The potential yield from five of the most promising ground-water reservoirs is evaluated by means of mathematical models. Results indicate that continuous withdrawals ranging from 1.3 to 10.3 million gallons per day, and totaling 31 million gallons per day, are obtainable from these reservoirs. Larger yields may be recovered by different well placement, spacing, construction and development, pumping practice, and so forth.
Withdrawals at the rates indicated will reduce streamflow downstream from pumping centers but generally will not result in streams going dry, provided the water is returned to the basin. Export of water from the basin will require careful consideration of the effects of such withdrawals on low streamflow. Export from the Pawcatuck basin of 27 million gallons per day, estimated to be available from ground-water reservoirs in the upper Pawcatuck basin, in addition to 37.5 million gallons per day available in the lower Pawcatuck basin, will markedly reduce low streamflow. The 90-percent duration flow of the Pawcatuck River at Westerly would be reduced from 75 million gallons per day to perhaps as little as 21 million gallons per day.
The chemical quality of water from both the sand and gravel aquifer and associated streams is suitable for most purposes. The water is soft, slightly acidic, and typically has a dissolved-solids content of less than 75 milligrams per liter. Some treatment may be required locally for removal of iron and manganese to meet recommended standards of the U.S. Public Health Service for drinking water.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Availability of ground water in the lower Pawcatuck River basin, Rhode Island
Water Supply Paper
U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
40 p. :ill., maps (part fold.col.in pocket), tables. ;24 cm.