New England water is improving but problems remain

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, according to a US Geological Survey (USGS) report.


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“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 syntheticorganic 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, ground waters, 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 ground water 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 conducted nationwide to define how the environment influences ground and surface-water quality and aquatic biology in large watersheds, or drainage areas, as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program.

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