Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Daniel Urish


A detailed review of the existing Rhode Island statutes and regulations relating to water management and protection exposed a gap which could allow severe aquifer overuse. Little provision exists for state action until an imminent threat from aquifer over pumping becomes evident or creates a related water quality problem. A proactive solution, one advocating action before serious problems occur, is proposed in the form of legislation and a water management plan. This legislation, the Rhode Island Water Management Area Act of 1994, allows local formation of regional Water Management Areas and establishes a water withdrawal permit program applicable only within a designated Area. Area formation is subject to approval from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) as are any rules or regulations it proposes. The permit program will be administered by RIDEM which would also have authority to declare critical water use control areas wholly within or without or in any part of an established Water Management Area. Within a critical water use control area the RIDEM is given special powers to take action(s) to abate the water resource problem. This provision gives the State recourse in the face of local inaction due to parochial interests or otherwise.

At the Federal level USEPA is the lead agency promoting water management. In a 1991 document USEPA outlined steps to protect the nation's groundwater based upon founding principles, among them: prevention of contamination wherever feasible; prioritization of remedial efforts to maximize effectiveness of dollars spent; and pushing management authority to the lowest level possible. Financially, USEPA recognized its own limited funding and sought to maximize effectiveness of grants and loans by establishing a system of differential monetary support among the states. This is accomplished by evaluating each state against USEP A criteria designed to identify "mature" groundwater protection programs. Those states most closely meeting these criteria receive a proportionally larger share of available funds. The proposed legislation would bring Rhode Island close to meeting all USEP A criteria for a "mature" groundwater protection program.

Water management plan development and legislation drafting caused attention to focus upon state approaches incorporating a differential protection concept. Differential protection creates powers applicable only within a specifically designated management area. This allows action where needed without affecting other areas. Arizona, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia all apply a differential protection concept but in highly divergent forms. Examination of these programs in detail led to the form of management program proposed.

Development of a water management plan is required of each Water Management Area and a specific plan for the Chipuxet Basin is presented. This plan identifies water quality and quantity problems and the symptoms which would presage their appearance. A series of programs/actions including monitoring of water quality and groundwater level, inspections of potential contaminant sites to assess storage, handling and disposal of oils and hazardous materials, public relations and education, water conservation, technical assistance and more are proposed. Local versions of most State water programs are also specified to bring these programs and their enforcement directly into the community and to increase their effectiveness. The first year projected implementation costs of this program in the Chipuxet Basin is estimated to be $140,000 which drops to $120,000 in subsequent years.

The Chipuxet Basin is located mainly in South Kingstown, but portions extend northward into Exeter and North Kingstown. The Chipuxet Groundwater Reservoir is a highly transmissive and prolific aquifer capable of yielding large volumes of high quality drinking water. Currently, the annual average withdrawal from the Aquifer is on the order of 1.1 million gallons per day, although it is capable of producing almost three times that amount. Over the past several years, two new large withdrawals have been proposed. The Wakefield Water Company owns approximately 27 acres on lower Plains Road and has indicated plans to install three one million gallon per day wells on this parcel. The Meridian Power Corporation has proposed construction of a co-generation power plant near the comer of Plains Road and West Alumni Avenue which will withdraw 450,000 gallons per day for evaporation in a cooling tower. [This amount could double with a second phase.] In total, a sum of 4.83 million gallons per day may be withdrawn from the ground by 1995, much of it from a geographically and hydrologically small area. Continued groundwater withdrawal at this rate would threaten to cause the Chipuxet River to completely dry up in late summer and early fall months.

Quality of the ground and surface waters in the Chipuxet Basin is good to excellent for drinking water in most cases, with locally contaminated areas. Water quality in the Kingston Water District wells in the period from 1985-1991 and in the URI wells in 1990-1991 has been good to excellent. A plume of mineralized groundwater extends westward from the area of the former West Kingston Landfill and former URI disposal area along Plains Road. Volatile organic chemicals (VOC's) were detected in groundwater monitoring wells on both of these sites and west of Plains Road in three former private drinking water wells. A plume of gasoline contaminated groundwater extends from the Citgo Station on Route 138 eastward toward the Chipuxet River. A plume of salt contaminated groundwater extends from the URI salt pile westward. Agricultural impact from pesticides was shown when aldicarb was detected in URI well #4 in 1984 at a concentration of 6 micrograms per liter (ug/1), and in the KWD wells in 1985 and 1987 at a concentration of 4 ug/1. Aldicarb has recently been detected in KWD well #2 at 6 ug/1. There is no legally enforceable Federal standard (MCL) for aldicarb in drinking water, although the non-enforceable MCL Goal for aldicarb is 9 ug/1. Several other known small pollution sources and numerous potential pollution sources to water exist within the Chipuxet Basin. These sources could impact water quality within the Basin if not properly controlled.



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