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Water Quality

Nature of the issue in Washington State

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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
SUBASE Bangor
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
Lake Crescent
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
Dungeness
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
Elwha River
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
Fort Lewis
Assessment of the Ground-Water Flow System and Potential Remediation of the Logistics Center, Fort Lewis - Completed FY2006
Hanford
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
Hood Canal
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
Urban Pesticide
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
GW/SW Interactions
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
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
Puget Parks
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 Beach and Bank Sediments - Completed FY2003

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
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
Satus Creek
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)
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
Army Stormwater, Vancouver Barracks - Completed FY1994
Vancouver Lake Nutrient
Developing a Water and Nutrient Budget for Vancouver Lake
Glaciers and Snowpack
Glacier and Snowpack, Washington and Alaska
Ground-Water Pesticide
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
Sediment Records
Collection of Basic Sediment Records, Washington
Water-Quality Records
Collection of Basic Water-Quality Records, Washington

Ground-Water Quality Network for the State of Washington - Completed FY1986
GW Recharge
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
Lake Whatcom
Elevated Levels of Mercury in Lake Whatcom Fish - Completed FY2004
Whatcom County
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
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

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