USGS Washington Water Science Center
Nature of the issue in Washington State
The major water-quality issues in Washington are preserving the quality of public drinking water supplies and the effects of non-point-source contamination on ground and surface waters. The quality of surface water and its effect on the health of aquatic ecosystems also is becoming increasingly important. Nitrate is the most prevalent drinking water quality concern in the State, but pesticide contamination of water supplies is a major issue in some areas. Agriculture, a major industry in the State, has had a wide effect on water quality, especially in eastern Washington. Point-source contamination from industrial and commercial activities is present in a number of locations, but as the Puget Sound region continues to grow the non-point-source effects of urbanization on water quality will increase. For both the protection of drinking water supplies and for stream ecosystem health, the effects of development and other human activities on water quality need to be better understood. Water-quality issues related to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation also are a concern.
Better information on the following topics will help improve our ability to protect drinking water supplies and the health of aquatic ecosystems.
Many USGS studies in Washington describe the effects of agricultural practices on water quality. Scientists estimated inputs and outputs of nitrogen and phosphorus for both the Puget Sound region and the Columbia Basin under the USGS National Assessment of Water Quality (NAWQA) program, and estimated nitrogen loading to ground water in parts of Franklin and Whatcom Counties using mass-balance methods. Data on dissolved gases and isotopes of nitrate for Whatcom County were used to determine the locations and rates of denitrification. Scientists in the NAWQA studies also estimated pesticide applications and loads transported in surface water for many watersheds in the central Columbia Plateau and the Puget Sound Basin. Sources of pesticides in urban streams in the Puget sound region were determined by relating pesticide detections to retail sales data.
Several USGS studies address mechanisms of transformation of organic compounds in ground water, including an assessment of transformation of chlorinated solvents in ground water beneath military bases. A study for the U.S. Army included evaluating the effectiveness of using natural or assisted biodegradation and phytoremediaton to treat shallow ground water contaminated with TCE. Another study assessed the transformation of 1,2-dichloropropane in ground water in Whatcom County.
Ground-water vulnerability assessments include a study relating the occurrence in Puget Sound Basin of elevated nitrate and atrazine concentrations to land use and surficial geology using statistical techniques, and providing a strategy for prioritizing the sampling of public supply wells that is based on land-use patterns, well depth, and nitrate concentrations in ground water. A study to estimate the contribution of ground-water discharge to annual loads of nitrogen and pesticides in irrigation wasteways in the central Columbia Plateau demonstrated the effects of ground water-surface water interaction on water quality. Initial assessment of pathogens in rivers and streams in Puget Sound (NAWQA) showed that the occurrence of bacteria and viruses were related to land use and the presence of waste-water chemicals such as steroids.
|Current and Recent Climate and Land Use Change Studies Conducted by the Washington Water Science Center|
"Characterization of the Geohydrology, Ground-Water Flow System, and Ground-Water Quality of SUBASE Bangor - Completed FY2003
Water Resources of the Kitsap Peninsula and Adjacent Islands - Completed FY1980
Movement Of Contaminants In Ground Water At Keyport Naval Training Station, Bangor, Washington - Completed FY1975"
NCCN Critical Loads|
Developing Critical Loads for Atmospheric Deposition of Inorganic Nitrogen to North Coast and Cascades Network Lakes - Completed FY2011
Cedar River Watershed|
"The Preparation of a Workplan to Develop and Refine New Approaches to Assess Stream Ecosystem Conditions within the Cedar River Watershed, Washington - Completed FY2001
Cedar River Watershed Water-Quality Assessment - Completed FY2001"
Central Columbia Plateau - Yakima River Basin NAWQA|
"National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA), Central Columbia Plateau-Yakima River Basin"
Columbia Basin GWMA|
Nitrate trends in Ground Water of the Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area - Completed FY2004
Columbia Basin Ground-Water Management Area (GWMA) - Completed FY2001
Columbia Basin Irrigation|
"Collection of Pesticide Data in Columbia Basin Irrigation Project Return Flows - Completed FY2004
[Department of the Interior] Irrigation Drainage Reconnaissance Study of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project - Completed FY1995
Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, Mass Measurement 1983 - Completed FY1983
Recharge and Ground-Water Storage in Parts of Grant and Adams Counties - Completed FY1973"
"Nearshore Effects of Residential Wastewater-Influenced Groundwater on Lake Crescent - Completed FY2011
Lake Crescent Nutrient Budget - Completed FY2008
USGS Technical Assistance for Water-Quality Microbiology, Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park - Completed FY2006"
"Relation Between the Dungeness River and the Shallow Aquifer in the Sequim-Dungeness Area, Clallam County, Washington - Completed FY2002
Hydrogeologic Assessment of the Dungeness River Basin - Completed FY1999
Aquifer Delineation in the Dungeness River Basin - Completed FY1995"
Highway Storm-Water Detention|
"Effects of Highway Storm-Water Retention Basins on Ground-Water Quality, Dupont - Completed FY2001"
Eastbank Aquifer near Rocky Reach Dam|
"Assessment of Ground-Water Temperatures near Rocky Reach Dam, Douglas County - Completed FY2008"
"Transport of Suspended Sediment and Its Effect on Aquatic Habitat in the Elwha River, Olympic National Park - Completed FY2005
Development of a Continuous, Real-Time Suspended-Sediment Monitoring System and Its Evaluation in the Elwha River, Washington - Completed FY2005
Evaluation of Current Ecological Conditions with Respect to Nutrient Dynamics in the Elwha River, Olympic National Park - Completed FY1999"
Elwha River and Morse Creek Watershed|
Water Resources Inventory of the Elwha River and Morse Creek Watershed - Completed FY2000
"Assessment of the Ground-Water Flow System and Potential Remediation of the Logistics Center, Fort Lewis - Completed FY2006"
Investigations of Hazardous Waste at Hanford CERCLA Sites
Estimation of Natural Recharge at the Hanford Nuclear Reserfation Using a Chloride Mass Balance and Chlorine 36 Isopotic Tracer - Completed FY1995
Basalt Waste Isolation Coordination - Completed FY1990
"Estimating Ground-Water Discharge and Nitrogen Loading in Hood Canal, Washington - Completed FY2011
Studies Addressing Low Concentrations of Dissolved Oxygen in Hood Canal - Completed FY2004"
Raging River Temperature|
Raging River Temperature and Groundwater/Surface-Water Interactions
"Pesticide Toxicity in Urban Streams, King County - Completed FY2004"
Lummi Indian Reservation|
"Ground-Water Resources of the Lummi Indian Reservation, Phase II - Completed FY1996
Water Resources of the Lummi Indian Reservation - Completed FY1974"
McChord Air Force Base|
Analyzing Tree Cores to Locate the Extent of TCE Contamination in Ground Water at a Location on McChord Air Force Base - Completed FY2002
Methow River Basin|
Surface-Water Hydrology in the Methow River Basin - Completed FY2003
The Unconsolidated Aquifer and Its Interaction with Surface Water - Completed FY2003
Monitoring Water Resources and Simulating Water Management Alternatives - Completed FY2003
Analyzing Aquifer and Streamflow Characteristics for Artificial Recharge in the Methow River Basin - Completed FY2003
Moses Lake Sediment|
Suspended-Sediment Sampling on Inflow and Outflow to Moses Lake and Sediment Cores in Moses Lake - Completed FY2009
Mount St. Helens |
Retrospective Analysis of Processes Affecting the Water Quality Due to the Eruption of Mount St. Helens - Completed FY1987
Nooksack River Ground-Water Bacteria|
Transport and Fate of Bacterial and Nitrate Contamination in Ground Water of the Lower Nooksack River Basin - Completed FY2005
USGS Pilot Study to Assess Ecosystem Effects of Increased Coal Transport Across the Northwest Region
Interactions between Ground Water and Surface Water in Alluvial Rivers of the Pacific Northwest - Completed FY2004
Pacific Northwest Tribal Water Resources|
Pacific Northwest Tribal Water Resources Technical Assessment - Completed FY2005
White River Basin and Lake Tapps Water Quality|
Quality of water in the White River and Lake Tapps - Completed FY2011
Coast Salish Canoe Journey|
Coast Salish - U.S. Geological Survey Tribal Water Quality in the Puget Sound - Competed FY2011
Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound (CHIPS)|
USGS Web Page for the Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound (CHIPS) Program to Provide the Science Needed to Restore and Preserve Puget Sound
Linking Sources to the Sound|
Primary Sources and Transport Mechanisms of Toxic Chemicals in Puget Sound - Completed FY2011
Persistent Organic Pollution and Heavy Metals in Glacial-Fed Lakes and Aquatic Biota in National Parks and Forests of the Puget Sound Basin - Completed FY2004
Puget Sound Basin NAWQA|
"National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA), Puget Sound Basin"
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard|
Ground-Water Flow in the Vicinity of Dry Docks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard - Completed FY1998
River Loads into the Puget Sound|
"River Sediment and Toxic Chemical Loads into Puget Sound, WA – A Demonstration Study of the National Monitoring Network for U.S. Coastal Waters and Their Tributaries"
"Multispectral imaging, Puyallup River"|
"The Integration of Multispectral Imaging and LIDAR to Evaluate the Geomorphic Changes Associated with a Levee Setback Along the Puyallup River, WA - Completed FY2005"
Puyallup River Basin|
Puyallup River TMDL Monitoring - Completed FY2002
Lake Roosevelt-Upper Columbia River|
"Interdisciplinary investigation of the occurrence and potential impacts of slag on Lake Roosevelt white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)
The Effects of Trace Elements on Water Quality and Biological Health in the Lake Roosevelt National Recreational Area: Columbia River - Completed FY2006
Occurrence And Distribution of Trace Elements In Air Along Lake Roosevelt: A Pilot Study - Completed FY2006
Assessment of Trace-Element Concentrations in Sediment Cores and Rates of Sediment Accumulation in Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake - Completed FY2004
Occurrence and Distribution of Trace Elements in Lake
Development of a Sediment Quality Program for the Upper Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt - Completed FY1999
Organochlorine Compounds and Mercury in Fish Tissue from Lake Roosevelt and the Upper Columbia River - Completed FY1999
Bioaccumulation of Mercury in Walleye, FDR Lake, Washington - Completed FY1997
Toxics-Related Water Quality of Lake Roosevelt, Washington - Completed FY1995"
Regional Stormwater Monitoring Program
Salmon Creek Basin|
"Simulation of Unregulated Streamflows in the Salmon Creek Basin, Okanogan County - Completed FY2006"
Sammamish River Basin|
"Water Quality of the Sammamish River, King County - Completed FY2002"
San Juan County|
"Estimates of Average Monthly Ground-Water Recharge, Precipitation, and Runoff on Lopez, San Juan, Orcas, and Shaw Islands, San Juan County, WA - Completed FY2007
Assessment of Seawater Intrusion into the Aquifers of the San Juan Islands, San Juan County - Completed FY2002
Ground-Water-Quality Monitoring in San Juan County - Completed FY1989
Water Supplies of San Juan Island National Historical Park - Completed FY1986"
"Restoration Monitoring of Satus Creek and the Satus Wildlife Area, Yakama Nation Reservation - Completed FY2004"
Sauk River Sediment|
"Sauk River Suspended-Sediment Skagit and Snohomish Counties, Washington"
Sources of Mercury in Sinclair Inlet|
"Potential Sources of Mercury in Sinclair Inlet (Operable Unit B, Marine, Bremerton Naval Complex) - Competed FY2013"
Lake Spokane Nutrients|
"Groundwater non-point source input of phosphorus to Lake Spokane, Washington"
Stillaguamish Emerging Contaminants|
Emerging contaminants in wastewater effluents in the Stillaguamish Watershed
Sumas River Sediment Load|
"Assessment of Transport and Deposition of Asbestos-Rich Sediment along Swift Creek and the Sumas River, Whatcom County, Washington"
Swinomish Water Resources|
"Water Resources of the Swinomish River Basin - Completed FY1999
Hydrology of the Swinomish Indian Reservation, Northwestern Washington - Completed FY1998
Water Resources of the Swinomish Indian Reservation - Completed FY1979"
Pierce County GW|
Ground-Water Resources of the Tacoma-Puyallup Area - Completed FY2000
"Nitrate in GW, Lower Umatilla Basin, OR"|
"Developing and Utilizing Isotopic and Tracer Tools to Evaluate the Source and Movement of Nitrate in Contaminated Ground Water in the Lower Umatilla Basin, Oregon - Completed FY2006"
"Army Stormwater, Vancouver Barracks - Completed FY1994"
Vancouver Lake Nutrient|
Developing a Water and Nutrient Budget for Vancouver Lake - Competed FY2014
Glaciers and Snowpack|
"Glacier and Snowpack, Washington and Alaska"
Development of Methods to Assess the Vulnerability of Ground Water to Pesticide Contamination in Washington State - Completed FY2003
Navy Technical Oversight|
Technical Oversight of Environmental Projects at U.S. Navy Facilities in Washington and Alaska
"Collection of Basic Sediment Records, Washington"
"Collection of Basic Water-Quality Records, Washington
Ground-Water Quality Network for the State of Washington - Completed FY1986"
"Evaluating Recharge Parameter Sensitivities in the Deep Percolation Model and the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System, Washington - Completed FY2004"
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP)|
"EPA Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP), Benthic invertebrates in the Western United States - Completed FY2004"
Elevated Levels of Mercury in Lake Whatcom Fish - Completed FY2004
"Study of Fumigant-Derived Compounds in Shallow Ground Water, Whatcom Co., WA - Completed FY1999
Ground-Water Resources of Portions of the Lower Nooksack and Upper Sumas River Basins - Completed FY1992"
White River Bioenergetics|
White River Salmon Habitat and Energetics Model
White River Videography|
Habitat Identification for the Upper White River Using Multispectral Imaging - Completed FY2002
Phosphorus SPARROW Model for the Yakima River|
Deveopment and Calibration of a Total Phosphorus SPARROW Model for the Yakima River Basin - Competed FY2013
Yakima River Temperature Model|
"Development of Water-Temperature Models for Main-Stem Reaches of the Yakima and Naches Rivers, Washington - Completed FY2007
Streamflow Temperature Model of the Yakima River - Completed FY1982"