Water resources

Maintaining high quality water resources is critical for both human consumption and to support natural ecosystems. The majority of Woodstock residents obtain their drinking water from private or small public onsite wells. In A Plan of Open Space and Conservation, the Woodstock Conservation Commission made a series of recommendations designed to protect water quality in the future, including: establishing aquifer overlay protection zones, inventorying important aquifer recharge areas, including clear watershed protection goals in the Plan of Conservation and Development, limiting the impacts of impervious surfaces in Woodstock, establishing riparian protection zones, protect in critical areas of public water supply watershed from improper land uses, classifying wetlands by their functional value, and protecting vernal pools. Bacteria, nutrients such as phosphates and nitrates, sediment (soil), toxic substances (e.g., heavy metals, oil and grease, and pesticides), trash, and airborne pollutants (e.g., acid rain) threaten water quality.  Invasive plants (e.g, purple loosestrife, water chestnut, Eurasian watermilfoil) can cause great harm to natural ecosystems.


Lake & Watershed Protection

You can help prevent or control pollution of watersheds by paying attention to the following Do's and Don'ts:


  • Follow the EPA's SepticSmart Homeowners guidelines. 
  • Use non-phosphate detergents. 
  • Seed and mulch bare soil within one week of clearing. Put hay bales down slope of cleared areas. 
  • Leave or plant naturally vegetated areas (buffer strips), and leave/place rocks along lake shores, streambeds and ditches. 
  • Preserve natural topography. Properly shape roads, ditches and driveways to reduce soil erosion. 
  • Use organic materials (e.g., compost), and biological or cultural controls in your landscape.
  • Use fertilizer sparingly.
  • Prevent runoff from driveways, roofs, lawns, etc., from going directly into lakes/streams. Detain runoff in depressions, or divert flow to flat, wooded areas. 
  • Use chemicals as a last resort. Seek the least hazardous product to accomplish the job. Purchase the smallest amounts needed. Follow directions carefully. Store hazardous materials in a contained areas. 
  • Pick up pet wastes and dispose of them in the garbage or toilet.
  • When boating, bring back what you take out. 
  • Repair, paint and maintain boats in dry dock. 
  • When leaving a lake or river, remove any visible aquatic vegetation (weeds) from boat, propeller, anchor, lines and trailer and discard in trash. 
  • Discard all live aquatic bait in a suitable containers.  Empty live wells and bait buckets. 
  • If you move your boat from lake to lake, dry out your boat for at least two days or wash down hull with tap water before launching again; and flush engine cooling system, bilge areas and live wells with tap water. 
  • Choose native or non-invasive exotic plants for water gardens. Buy from a reputable nursery. 
  • Manage excessive algae or weed growth in lakes with input from the CT DEEP Lakes Management Program
  • Conserve water


  • DON'T use excessive amounts of herbicides and pesticides in gardens or on lawns. 
  • DON'T apply fertilizer right before it rains.
  • DON'T put leaves, branches or other organic matter into a lake.
  • DON'T wash cars near lakes, streams or drainage ditches.
  • DON'T dump motor oil down a storm drain or on the ground.  Recycle it.
  • DON'T allow water to run directly off roads into lakes or streams.
  • DON'T fill or dredge unless necessary.  (Permits are required).
  • DON'T dispose of paint thinners or chemical products on the ground.
  • DON'T put in excessive impervious surfaces (paving, etc.). Less than 10% is recommended.
  • DON'T throw litter on the ground or down storm drains. Recycle as much as possible.
  • DON'T sweep leftover sand from the road or driveway into storm drains.
  • DON'T dump trash or plastic into water bodies.
  • DON'T dump boat sewage into a lake.
  • DON'T overfill fuel tanks on boats or pump out oily bilge water.
  • DON'T build water gardens near natural waterways.
  • DON'T dispose of aquatic plants (e.g., plants from aquariums or water gardens) by releasing them into a natural waterway.
  • DON'T plant purple loosestrife in your garden. No varieties are sterile.
  • DON'T release live aquatic bait into the water.
  • DON'T feed waterfowl.

More Information:

The following links provide more information about what you, as a homeowner, can do to help protect the quality of Woodstock's groundwater and surface water.

References: Please consult appropriate regulatory agencies for specific requirements


Vernal Pools

Vernal pools are small, isolated wetlands that hold water on a temporary basis, most often during winter and spring. They might be as small as a living room or as big as a football field, and can occur deep in the forest, in open wetlands, and in low spots in land.  They are filled by the spring's rising water table or snow run-off. Because they don't have an above-ground outlet for water, they are usually gone by late summer. *

Vernal pools are very important to the life cycle of many amphibians, as they are too shallow and short-lived to support fish that would eat the amphibian eggs or larvae. Vernal pools and their adjacent upland habitats encourage biodiversity by supporting an abundance of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates not found in other areas.  

Species that depend on vernal pools for successful breeding include fairy shrimp (inch-long crustaceans with a lifespan of just a few weeks); spotted, marbled and Jefferson salamanders; eastern spadefoot toads; and wood frogs. A wide variety of other forest animals, including birds, turtles, snakes, and small and large mammals also use these pools for feeding and resting. In addition, these "sylvan gems" are aesthetically pleasing, with moss-covered logs, delicate hues of greens and browns, and dappled sunlight shining through forest cover. 

However, because they are small, hard to identify, and subject to limited regulation, they are often impacted by development. As a result, vernal pools - and the species that depend on them - are rapidly disappearing. 

Many vernal pool amphibians go back to breed in the pools where they were born. If the pool is disturbed or destroyed by development, the amphibians show little tendency to relocate. It is also important to remember that these animals rely on both vernal pools and connecting upland terrestrial habitats for survival, spending about 11 out of 12 months each year in adjacent uplands, forests and wetlands. 

Even a relatively small degree of development (25% of surrounding critical terrestrial habitat) can negatively impact vernal pool wildlife. For example, one study done in Massachusetts found that when 25 acres of upland forest next to a vernal pool was cleared, the pool's wood frog population became locally extinct, despite a 150-foot-wide forested buffer around the pool and a forested wetland corridor adjacent to the pool. 

The most valuable vernal pools are:

  • ecologically significant due to size and the length of time they hold water; 
  • have state-listed or vernal pool species present/breeding; and 
  • are surrounded by intact, undeveloped critical terrestrial habitat. 

Vernal pools, like Atlantic Cedar Swamps, are critical habitats that we must continue to work together to protect. Mechanisms include acquisition by a conservation organization like a land trust; conservation easements; employment of best management practices to integrate design, engineering and natural resource protection into developments; zoning/ordinances; and last but not least, voluntary stewardship programs by landowners. 

*According to A Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools by Kenney and Burne, "many of our larger vernal pools persist for several years before drying". And according to Elizabeth Colburn's book Vernal Pools: Natural History and Conservation when defining the hydrology of vernal pools, states "they dry up annually or every few years - standing water either disappears completely, or water levels drop substantially durning the summer, exposing most of the pool bottom and retaining only a fraction of the peak volume". 


Are you interested in exploring a vernal pool this season? Contact CFPA's education director, Emma, to set up a program! If you can get a small group together (~5-15 individuals), let us know:

More Information and References:

Source: AMC Outdoors Magazine, April 2005


Water Conservation

Water is a precious natural resource that benefits all living things.  Maintaining a safe and adequate water supply is everyone's responsibility. Your daily actions directly impact water supplies. 

Source:  Connecticut Sea Grant Fact Sheet #10 

Water Saving Tips 

  • The average U.S. household uses more than 22,000 gallons of water per year just on showers and baths. (Source: New Dream) Shorten shower time.  Using water to wet down and rinse off only can save up to seven gallons of water/minute. Fill the bathtub halfway to save up to 15 gallons. Install low-flow showerheads and shut-off valves. Run hot water very briefly before getting into the shower.
  • Insulate hot water tanks to reduce the time to get hot water from the tap. 
  • Install low-flow faucet fixtures. 
  • Repair leaks promptly. One leaky faucet can waste 15 gallons of water/day; a leaky toilet can waste 170 gallons a day. 
  • Turn faucets off tightly when not in use. 
  • Turn water on and off when brushing teeth, shaving, and washing dishes. 
  • Turn the water on and off when washing the car.  A running hose wastes over 100 gallons of water in the time it takes to wash the car. 
  • Replace older toilets with ultra-low flow models. The newer low flow models work well. 
  • If you don't have a low-flow toilet, put a brick in the water tank. 
  • Store a pitcher of cold water in the refrigerator. 
  • Use an automatic dishwasher (it uses less water than hand washing), running only full loads and avoiding pre-rinsing. 
  • Sort clothing, pretreat stains, and select the appropriate load size for laundry. 
  • When purchasing a washing machine, consider a front-loading model.  They use 70% less water, detergent and fabric softeners. 
  • Landscape to minimize watering (called xeriscaping), by using drought-resistant plants, and improving soils or using mulch. (Note: Over-mulching trees and shrubs can kill them. Don't use more than 3" and don't let mulch come into contact with tree trunk). 
  • Direct gutters to rain barrels or rainwater tanks for use in watering nearby lawns, hanging plants and gardens. 1,000 square feet of roof can collect 420 gallons of water from 1 inch of rain. 
  • Don't mow the lawn shorter than 3 inches.  
  • Water the lawn only when necessary.  Step on the grass; if it springs back up when you move your foot, it does not need water. 
  • Water lawns early in the morning, when it is cooler.
  • Use shut off valves on hoses. 
  • Consider drip irrigation around trees and shrubs.
  • Cover a swimming pool. An average sized pool can evaporate about 1,000 gallons of water per month if left uncovered. A pool cover can cut the loss by up to 90%. 
  • Spread out high water use throughout the day and evening to avoid taxing your well. 

More Information:


Sourcewater protection


Save Our Groundwater

Groundwater and Groundwater Wells 

Ground water is the water that fills cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand.  It is a renewable resource that is naturally replenished by precipitation. There are more than 16 million wells in the U.S., tapping ground water for private and public supply, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, power, and other purposes. About 1/3 of Connecticut's population get their drinking water from ground water.  (Source: National Ground Water Association). Also, since ground water is the baseflow for most rivers, streams and wetlands, its quality is inextricably linked to surface water quality.

Illustration Source: ©The Groundwater Foundation 

The majority of people in Woodstock, CT obtain their water from private wells. Ground water in Woodstock is generally very good. While the ground is an excellent mechanism for filtering out particulate matter such as leaves, soil, and bugs. However, because Connecticut's major aquifer systems are shallow (typically less than 300 feet deep, with the water table within 50 feet of the land surface) they are susceptible to contamination.  Underground water can get contaminated from industrial, domestic, and agricultural chemicals applied to the ground surface. The most common water quality problem in rural areas is bacterial contamination from septic tanks. Excess nitrogen near agricultural areas can also be a problem. Shallow wells can be more at risk than deeper, drilled wells. 

The American Ground Water Trust recommends that all homeowners have their well water tested annually by a certified laboratory. Minimum testing should include coliform bacteria, nitrate and pH (acidity). If the pH is below 7.0, also test for lead, especially in homes built before 1987. If your well is near an operational or abandoned gas station or buried fuel storage, they recommend testing for volatile organic carbons (VOCs).  

The National Ground Water Association suggests you have your well equipment inspected annually by a licensed and/or certified water well contractor. This inspection, along with water testing, will assure your well equipment is sanitary and meets local code requirements. 

Steps to Maintain Your Well 

  • Keep hazardous chemicals, such as paint, fertilizers, pesticides and motor oil, far away from your well. 
  • Maintain a "clean zone" of at least 50 feet between your well and any kennels or livestock operations. 
  • Maintain proper separation between your well and waste systems. In Connecticut, the separation must be at least 75 feet. 
  • Periodically check the well cover or well cap on top of the casing to ensure it is in good repair and securely attached. The seal should keep out insects and rodents. (If you've ever had a squirrel or chipmunk drown in your well, you will know why this is so important.) 
  • Keep your well records in a safe place. These should include annual water well system maintenance and water testing results. 
  • Get your water tested anytime there is a change in taste, odor or appearance, or anytime the system is serviced. 

More Information and References:


“Establish Aquifer Overlay Protection Zones”

The Woodstock Conservation Commission has been working with Marc Cohen of the Atlantic States Rural Water and Wastewater Association on strategies to protect Woodstock’s drinking water supply.

Under Section 7-131a of the Connecticut General Statutes, a Conservation Commission can inventory natural resources and formulate watershed management and drought management plans.  The WCC conducted an extensive natural resource inventory before developing A Plan of Open Space and Conservation (APOSC).  One of the goals in the APOSC was to “Establish Aquifer Overlay Protection Zones” to protect existing and future underground water supplies. 

One of our most important natural resources is a potentially high-yielding aquifer in the southeastern part of Woodstock.  While the Town of Woodstock is not legally required to do this, it is important as a town to carefully consider the types of land uses that should be allowed over this vital resource.  Our businesses and citizens may need to rely on the source of water for future growth. 

While no large public wells are currently withdrawing water from this aquifer, and as Town of Putnam is currently permitted to withdraw water from Little River in South Woodstock, it is unlikely a large public well would be permitted at this time.  However, there are indications that the Town of Putnam may reduce their reliance on Little River as a drinking water source as they improve the water filtration system at their Park Street well field.  Either way,  water quality in this aquifer is key to water quality in the Little River.  

Aquifers situated on stratified drift deposits are highly vulnerable to contamination from certain aboveground land uses.  Therefore, the WCC believes it would be wise to review land use regulations over the aquifer’s major recharge areas, and evaluate whether we should further limit certain activities above these areas that could degrade water quality over the long term. The WCC will be holding a series of meetings to discuss and review this project. Our goal is to develop a set of draft regulations to submit to the Woodstock Planning & Zoning Commission for review.