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News Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey


Release: October 1, 2003
Contact:
Chris Konrad
253-428-3600, ext. 2634

Matt Ely
253-428-3600, ext. 2622

Study Explains Water Links Between Methow Aquifer and Rivers

[Note: The report can be viewed on the Web at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/wri034244/ .]

Watershed planners in the Methow River Basin get a clear picture of how water moves between the basin's rivers, canals and aquifer from a report published today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with Okanogan County.

The USGS studied the water resources in the Methow River Basin in 2001 and 2002 to gain information critical to water management. The Methow River and its tributaries are home to upper Columbia summer steelhead and spring Chinook salmon, which are both listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and bull trout, which is listed as threatened. The Methow River Basin community is currently developing a watershed management plan according to state guidelines.

Scientists analyzed the quality of surface and ground waters. They also studied the underlying water-bearing geologic deposits—the hydrogeology—of the basin, and they examined how water is exchanged between the aquifer and the surface waters. This is the first comprehensive study of its kind for the basin.

Knowing how water flows between rivers and aquifer is important to manage the water resources in the Methow River Basin for in-stream as well as out-of-stream uses.

“The essential character of the river is the back-and-forth flow between the river and the aquifer,” said Chris Konrad, USGS research hydrologist and lead author of the report. “Results from this study will give the community important scientific information to plan and manage the basin’s water resources.”

Glaciers deposited sediments in the valleys of the Methow, Twisp, and Chewuch Rivers. Ground-water levels in the aquifer are highest during the summer and lowest in the late winter and early spring. Water from the aquifer is a primary source of baseflow in the Methow, Twisp, and Chewuch Rivers. The aquifer, in turn, is recharged by infiltration of snowmelt and rainfall, and seepage from rivers and irrigation canals.

Both surface and ground water generally are of high quality, and results from the 2001-2002 study are comparable to water quality studies in previous years.

"Ground water and surface water are linked by the flow of water between rivers and aquifer, so both the quantity and quality of these resources depend on each other," Konrad said.

The report, “Hydrogeology of the Unconsolidated Sediments, Water Quality, and Ground-Water/Surface-Water Exchanges in the Methow River Basin, Okanogan County, Washington,” by Christopher P. Konrad, Brian W. Drost, and Richard J. Wagner, is published as U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4244. The report can be viewed on the Web at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/wri034244/M . Copies can be purchased from the U.S. Geological Survey, Information Services, Box 25286, Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225-0286, telephone 303-202-4200.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life. To receive USGS news releases, go to https://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/list_server.asp

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