New England Water Science Center

Skip to main content

Water Resources of New England

New England Water Science Center website provides information on New England's rivers and streams, groundwater, water quality, and biology. Data collection and interpretive studies done by the Center are part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) science strategy to address the water resource priorities of the Nation in:

  • Ecosystem status and change
  • Climate variability and change
  • National hazard risk and assessment
  • Environmental risk to human health
  • Water use and availability
  • Transportation activities in relation to water resources

pdf New England Water Science Center Information Sheet

Our Nation’s Waters



A new online interactive mapping tool provides summaries of decadal-scale changes in groundwater quality across the Nation.
The mapper shows how concentrations of 24 contaminants, such as nutrients, pesticides, metals, and volatile organic compounds, are changing over decadal periods in 67 groundwater networks across the Nation. Each network consists of about 20 to 30 wells selected to represent water-quality conditions in a given geographical area, aquifer, and in some cases, a specific land use. More...


About 130 million people in the United States rely on groundwater for drinking water, and the need for high-quality drinking-water supplies becomes more urgent as our population grows. Although groundwater is a safe, reliable source of drinking water for millions of people nationwide, high concentrations of some chemical constituents can pose potential human-health concerns. More...


The glacial aquifer system underlies much of the northern United States. About one-sixth (41 million people) of the United States population relies on the glacial aquifer system for drinking water. The primary importance of the glacial aquifer system is as a source of water for public supply to the population centers in the region, but the aquifer system also provides drinking water for domestic use to individual homes and small communities in rural areas. More...


Water use in the United States in 2010 was estimated to be about 355 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d), which was 13 percent less than in 2005. The 2010 estimates put total withdrawals at the lowest level since before 1970. Thermoelectric power and irrigation remained the two largest uses of water in 2010, and total withdrawals for both were notably less than in 2005. Mining and aquaculture were the only major sectors that reported increases in total withdrawals in 2010. More...

Environmental Health Science

Photo showing the installation of a sealed domestic well cap

Public Perception Impedes Prevention of Arsenic Exposure

It is estimated that there are over 13 million private wells in the United States, and that about 15 percent of the U.S. population, or over 43 million people, rely on private wells for their drinking water. Arsenic is present in groundwater used for drinking water in several regions of the United States, including the northeastern United States and the adjoining Atlantic Canadian provinces.

One of the biggest challenges in preventing arsenic exposure from drinking water may be public perception, according to a recent special section of Science of the Total Environment.

According to studies completed in Nova Scotia and Maine, testing for arsenic in private wells is often not done because of a low perceived risk for arsenic exposure, inconvenience, and cost of testing. As part of these studies, scientists concluded that the public perception that arsenic is not a health concern prevents actions that could reduce exposure such as water treatment for arsenic removal or development of alternative water sources for private wells. Read more...

Elevated Bladder Cancer in Northern New England: The Role of Drinking Water and Arsenic

Bladder cancer mortality rates have been elevated in northern New England for over half a century. The incidence of bladder cancer in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont has been about 20 percent higher than that in the United States overall. Rates are elevated among both men and women. A unique feature of this region is the high proportion of the population using private wells for their drinking water, which are not maintained by municipalities and are not subject to federal regulations. These wells may contain arsenic, generally at low to moderate levels. Previous studies have shown that consumption of water containing high concentrations of arsenic increases the risk of bladder cancer.

Read the new study published May 2, 2016, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Featured Publications

The New England WSC has published 5 new fact sheets that highlight our work and capabilities in 5 topics: flood- and drought-related natural hazards, groundwater quality, surface-water quality, climate change influences, and transportation activity impacts on hydrology. These 5 areas of work are critically related to water resource protection and assessment in New England.

Fact Sheet 2016-3008

Flood- and drought-related natural hazards activities of the U.S. Geological Survey in New England
Fact Sheet 2016-3008

Fact Sheet 2016-3009

Transportation and hydrology studies of the U.S. Geological Survey in New England
Fact Sheet 2016-3009

Fact Sheet 2016-3010

Groundwater Contaminant Science Activities of the U.S. Geological Survey in New England
Fact Sheet 2016-3010

Fact Sheet 2016-3011

Climate Change Science Activities of the U.S. Geological Survey in New England
Fact Sheet 2016-3011

Fact Sheet 2016-3012

Surface water-quality activities of the U.S. Geological Survey in New England
Fact Sheet 2016-3012

News Releases

Study Assesses Threats to Groundwater Availability and Sustainability in Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain
Released: 9/6/2016

Threats to groundwater availability and sustainability in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain are dependent to a large degree by the type of aquifers used for water supply, according to a new regional assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey. Read more ...

River Forecasts Set to Begin for Winooski River at Waterbury Vermont
Released: 8/29/2016

Waterbury Vermont will soon have a new tool to aid in flood preparedness and resiliency. On August 29 the National Weather Service (NWS) will begin issuing forecasts for the Winooski River at Waterbury Vermont. Predictions of water levels extending out three days will be updated once daily during normal and low flow conditions, and more frequently as conditions warrant during high water or flooding. These new forecasts are possible based on work by the US Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Read more ...

Cape Cod susceptible to potential effects of sea-level rise
Released: 7/12/2016

Cape Cod is vulnerable to rising water tables and, in some areas, groundwater inundation as a result of rising sea levels, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.
Groundwater inundation occurs when the water table reaches or exceeds land surface. The challenges associated with the issue are likely to become more prevalent as seas rise. In some communities, groundwater inundation may result in saltwater intrusion of aquifers, problems with underground utilities and pipes, flooded basements and septic system failures, among other challenges. Depending on the severity, it may make areas unsuitable for residential and commercial development. Read more ...

Buoy on Popular New England Lake Helps Determine When to Stay Out of the Water
Released: 6/27/2016

A high-tech buoy that monitors water quality in real time was just installed in one of New England’s most popular lakes, where in the future it will help with determining when swimmers should and shouldn’t be in the water. Read more ...

Maine's Newest Tide Gauge for Coastal Safety
Released: 5/31/2016

More vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms is now available with the addition of Maine's newest U.S. Geological Survey installed tide gauge.
The gauge is installed at the Town of Saco's pier at Camp Ellis. Both public and private property in the area is subject to significant storm damage due to waves and wind. Read more ...

Nitrogen in Lakes Connected to Groundwater
Released: 4/28/2016

A recent scientific study shows new, important information about how groundwater cannot only contribute nutrients such as nitrogen to lakes, but can also carry it away. Nitrogen is an important nutrient but harmful when over-supplied. The fate and transport of nitrogen are critically important issues for human and aquatic ecosystem health. Read more ...

Color and phytoplankton changes in the Gulf of Maine
Released: 4/21/2016

Dr. William "Barney" Balch's team at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences has been sampling the waters of the Gulf of Maine regularly over the same transect for the last 18 years as part of a NASA-funded study. Working with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Dr. Thomas Huntington and Dr. George Aiken, Balch reported in a recent paper an overall reduction in productivity in the Gulf of Maine. Read more ...

Improved Water Quality Upstream Helps Long Island Sound
Released: 3/22/2016

Water quality in Connecticut streams flowing into Long Island Sound has steadily improved over the last 40 years, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.
USGS has been monitoring water quality in the state's streams for 43 years, since the implementation of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Read more ...

Man-made Pollutants Finding Their Way Into Groundwater Through Septic Systems
Released: 2/10/2015

Pharmaceuticals, hormones and personal care products associated with everyday household activities are finding their way into groundwater through septic systems in New York and New England, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Read more ...

A Decade of Water Science: USGS Helps Assess Water Resources in Afghanistan
Released: 8/19/2014

For the past decade, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have shared their expertise with the Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) in efforts to build an inventory of Afghanistan’s water resources. A new fact sheet details how these efforts help the country quantify and monitor its water resource.
”This partnership with the Afghanistan Geological Survey and other international agencies is extremely important for Afghanistan,” said Jack Medlin, USGS regional specialist, Asia and Pacific Region. ”There’s a broad consensus that water availability is a global issue, and these collaborative efforts created the data collection networks necessary to help quantify water conditions in the region and manage future water supplies.” Read more ...

Well-Water for 80,000 New Hampshire Residents May contain Metals Exceeding Human Health Standards
Released: 6/16/2014

Nearly three-in-ten well-water samples tested from southeast New Hampshire contained metals at concentrations that exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standards and guidelines, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study.
Researchers sampled water from 232 private bedrock wells from 2012 to 2013, testing for levels of arsenic, uranium, manganese, iron and lead.
”Our study showed that a significant percentage of the population that relies on domestic bedrock wells may have drinking water with arsenic, lead, manganese, and (or) uranium concentrations greater than human-health standards established by the EPA for public-water systems,” said hydrologist Sarah Flanagan, lead author of the study. Read more ...

Featured Projects

Flood-inundation maps for the Hoosic River, North Adams and Williamstown, Massachusetts

partyA series of nine digital flood–inundation maps were developed for an 8–mile reach of the Hoosic River in North Adams and Williamstown, Massachusetts, by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The availability of the flood–inundation maps on the website combined with information regarding current (near real–time) stage from USGS streamgage Hoosic River near Williamstown, and forecasted flood stages from the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service will provide emergency management personnel and residents with information that is critical for flood response activities such as evacuations and road closures, and post–flood recovery efforts. The flood–inundation maps are nonregulatory, but provide Federal, State, and local agencies and the public with estimates of the potential extent of flooding during selected peak–flow events.
Read more ...

Groundwater Resources of Cape Cod

map The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been investigating groundwater and surface-water resources on Cape Cod for more than 50 years. A newly released USGS Fact Sheet highlights recent studies that have focused on the sources of water to public-supply wells, ponds, streams, and coastal areas; the transport and discharge of nitrogen derived from domestic and municipal disposal of wastewater; and the effects of climate change on groundwater and surface-water resources.
The fact sheet, "Science for the Stewardship of the Groundwater Resources of Cape Cod, Massachusetts" (, and an associated bibliography of USGS Cape Cod water-resources reports ( are available online.

Water quality, the controlling factor on the herring run, aquaculture, and blue carbon at the Herring River salt-marsh restoration, Cape Cod National Seashore

video access

The project is a 2015 start of the USGS/NPS (National Park Service) Water-Quality Partnership program.
The video shows the installation of a radar unit to measure tidal flows by the index velocity method in the Herring River project in Wellfleet MA.
The radar unit is provided for testing by Hydrological Services America.

USGS Coastal Storm Surge Monitoring Network

Sensors site locations map interface

Sensors site locations map interface (click on the map).

Hurricane Sandy made the East Coast of the United States realize its vulnerability to extreme tidal surges, coastal flooding and possible impacts of climate change on sea levels and weather. Following this devastating event, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) received $18.8 million in supplemental funding to better understand coastal flooding, to improve our preparedness for future coastal storms, and to increase the resilience of coastal cities, infrastructure and natural systems.
Read more ...

USGS Home Water Climate Change Core Science Ecosystems Energy and Minerals Env. Health Hazards

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information:
Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 06-Sep-2016 16:53:30 EDT