PEMBROKE, N.H. -- Water quality has improved significantly in New England over the past 50 years because of advances in the treatment of municipal and industrial wastes. However, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are still experiencing some problems with the quality of ground and surface water and the water in the Gulf of Maine. In an effort to better understand the current picture, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a report that describes the natural and human factors that affect water quality and aquatic life in New England.
"Problems with water quality are due to many factors," said Keith Robinson, Chief of the New England Coastal Basins study. These factors range from excess nutrient concentrations to toxic substances, land use and sewer overflows, the presence of synthetic organic chemicals, effects of dams on fish and bottom-dwelling organisms, effects of the deposition of mercury from the atmosphere into lakes and fish, and the direct and indirect sources of pollutants in rivers.
The USGS report describes the geology, climate, soils, rivers and streams, groundwaters, plant and animal habitats on land and in the water, and human settlement and industry (termed environmental settings) within the 23,000-square-mile New England Coastal Basins study area.
Information about the physical and cultural characteristics, or environmental setting, will not only give a picture of the quality of surface and groundwater but also provide information needed by water-resource managers in the four states to implement effective water-quality management policies.
The New England study is one of 59 similar studies being made nationwide to define how the environment influences groundwater and surface-water quality and aquatic biology in large watersheds, or drainage areas, as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program.
Copies of the report Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4249, titled "Water-quality assessment of the New England Coastal Basins in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island: Environmental settings and implications for water quality and aquatic biota," by S.M. Flanagan and others, are available for viewing at university, state, and government depository libraries and at the USGS, NH/VT District office, 361 Commerce Way, Pembroke, NH 03275, (603) 226-7837. Copies may be purchased for $4.00 from the USGS, Branch of Information Services, Box 25286, Denver, CO 80225 or by calling 1-888-ASK-USGS.
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