May 3, 1999 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,î said Keith Robinson, Chief of the New England Coastal Basins study. These factors range from excess nutrient concentrations to toxic substancs, land use and sewer overflows, the presence of syntheticorganic chemicals, effects of dams on fish and bottom-dwelling organisms, effects of the depostion of mercury from the atmposphere 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.
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,î 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.
As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science, and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2,000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, contribute to the sound conservation, economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources, and enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.
In-depth information about USGS water-resources programs may be found on the USGS Water-Resources home page: http://water.usgs.gov.
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