Date of Award

1984

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Community Planning

First Advisor

John J. Kupa

Abstract

The drinking water system serving over 50,000 residents of Aquidneck Island is comprised of nine reservoirs located in five separate Rhode Island Communities. Urban runoff, erosion and sedimentation caused by poor development practices has threatened both the quality as well as the quantity of this water supply. Despite a certain recognition of these problems, development within the drinking water watershed areas will continue to follow the same traditional patterns unless the local communities adopt stronger land use control measures.

Due to the geologic characteristics of the Island, existing groundwater resources on Aquidneck are limited. Thus, Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth rely on surface water reservoirs for their drinking water supply. However erosion and subsequent siltation has reduced the reservoirs' dependable yield 25 percent from their original capacity. In spite of their obvious importance to these communities the watershed areas of these reservoirs are not given any special protection.

The town of Middletown has recently recognized the importance of this issue in its new Comprehensive Community Plan adopted in May, 1984. The plan recommends that watershed sensitivity districts be established as a new zoning category. Through the adoption of innovative land use controls Middletown expects to avoid significant pollution of runoff, and to protect reservoirs and waterways against erosion and sedimentation.

The purpose of this research project is to carry out a watershed protection study to be used as a guide in the implementation of this recommendation. This report intends to provide the necessary information to town officials and local residents for better understanding of the importance of reservoir watershed protection regulations and their benefits to water quality. The report is organized into four chapters containing a summary of watershed data, a discussion of different alternatives for watershed protection and recommended tools for implementing watershed sensitivity districts in Middletown.

The content of this report is summarized as the following: Chapter I : Natural Resources Inventory consists of a survey and analysis of fresh water resources, soils, vegetation and other natural features of t he study watershed areas within the context of Middletown and Aquidneck Island. Chapter II: Development Patterns and Growth Trends include an inventory and analysis of present and projected land use within the study watershed areas. Growth trends islandwide and their potential impact to the study areas are discussed in light of the existing public utilities and development pressures. Chapter III: Alternatives for Watershed Protection introduces a review of land use control criteria, which relate to watershed protection. Their implementation and effectiveness are assessed according to previous experiences in other communities as well as to the state and local regulatory framework.

Chapter IV: Watershed Protection Plan and Recommendations presents a plan for watershed protection and discusses three alternative scenarios for the implementation of sensitivity districts in Middletown, RI.

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