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Rick Dinicola,
Associate Director, WA Water Science Center,
934 Broadway,
Suite 300
Tacoma, WA 98402

(dinicola@usgs.gov)
(253) 552-1603
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Columbia Plateau

Project Summaries

  
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WA305 - Crop Water Determination through Remote Sensing - Completed FY1986

Problem - Estimates of ground-water use for crop irrigation on several thousand square miles of the Columbia River Plateau in eastern Washington are inaccurate for present needs. Presently, pumpage data for the State and the Regional Aquifer Systems Analysis (RASA) study are being calculated from public utility district power records, with average pumpage efficiencies extrapolated from a scattering of measured efficiencies, and with total heads extrapolated from control in a scattered number of wells. Extrapolation of total head or of pump efficiency from one area to another is tenuous because of large local variations in specific capabilities of wells completed in basalt, pumping lifts, and because of varying pump system design and condition. This extrapolation introduces significant error into the pumpage calculation. A need exists to develop other methods which can be used to calculate water pumpage with better overall accuracy and cost effectiveness. In addition, a more efficient method is needed for obtaining yearly totals and locations of acreage irrigated by ground water.

Objectives -Based on available software and corp ground truth, and using LANDSAT reflectance data, crop types will be identified for the major ground-water irrigated areas on the Columbia Plateau, including Lincoln, Grant, Adams, and Walla Walla Counties and the Horse Heaven Hills area. Using these crop-identifying capabilities, we will calculate ground-water pumpage within the Columbia Plateau using soil water budget, and compare the calculated data with measured pumpage at selected sites.

Approach - There are two separate aspects to the study; the first is crop identification through utilization of LANDSAT 5 MSS scenes which cover the ground-water irrigated areas of the Columbia Plateau. Collect crop-type information for the 1983 or 1984 growing season as necessary ground truth for crop identification. The second aspect of the study involves the calculation of water use based on crop-type using recently written RASA software for estimating soil water budgets and comparing this with measured pumpage at selected sites in the plateau. Limit data collection to five crop types: wheat, corn, alfalfa/hay, potatoes, and pasture. Attempt to determine how pumpage varies with three main independent variables; crop type, climate type, and soil type.

WA281 - Basalt Waste Isolation Coordination - Completed FY1987

Problem - The Columbia Plateau, a major agricultural area of eastern Washington, is underlain by extensive basalt deposits. The ground-water system of these basalts is not well understood. Studies conducted during the 1960's have shown localized areas of severe ground-water decline. A study is needed to gain an understanding of the distribution and rate of pumping in the Greater Odessa area of the Plateau.

Objectives -

  1. Define the distribution and rate of ground-water pumpage in the Columbia Plateau within the State of Washington, excluding that part south of the Snake River, and
  2. Establish a network of observation wells within the same area from which water-level changes could be documented.

Approach - Excessive mineral deposits and decreasing soil permeabilities are occurring on irrigated fields in parts of the Columbia Plateau. Problems of this sort are commonly associated with irrigation water high in dissolved sodium. Sampling of 20 wells by the State Department of Ecology in the Yakima basin and Horse Heaven Hills area indicated high sodium adsorption ratios (SAR's) in 8 of the wells. Rockwell-Hanford personnel working in the Pasco basin have also reported high proportions of sodium relative to the other major cations in the ground water. All of the wells sampled to date derive from the Columbia River basalts and in general the occurrence of high SAR values occurs with relatively long residence times in the basalts.

WA280 - Distribution of Dissolved Sodium in the Ground Water of the Columbia River Plateau - Completed FY1985

Problem - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is concerned about the potential shortcomings in the Site Characterization Report presently being prepared by Rockwell-Hanford Operations for evaluating the feasibility of burying high-level nuclear waste at the Hanford Reservation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes that the hydrologic investigative work conducted by Rockwell needs more interaction with Battelle Pacific NW Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Rockwell's interpretation of the groundwater flow system varies significantly from views held by both Battelle and the Survey.

Objectives - Define, to the extent existing wells allow, the spatial and temporal variability in dissolved sodium in the ground water of the Columbia River basalts and relate this to the ground-water flow system and its geologic framework.

Approach - We will define to the extent possible the vertical and areal extent of the Saddle Mountains, Wanapum, and Grande Ronde basalts and the Vantage and Mabton interbeds from geophysical logs and drillers' logs, drill cuttings, information gained from the Basalt Waste Isolation project (WA282), and previously published reports. In addition we will define the spatial-temporal ground-water flow system based on mass water-level measurements made in the Quincy, Yakima, and greater Odessa areas, and the Pasco basin. Spatial and temporal variability in dissolved sodium will be determined by collecting ground-water samples from approximately 400 wells throughout these basalts. All of the above data will be correlated to define the changes of water chemistry with travel along regional flow lines.

WA182 - Coarse-grid Model Of Ground-water In The Columbia River Basalts - Completed FY1983

Problem - The Columbia River Group contains a system of aquifer zones of large areal extent. Pumping centers have stressed one or more of the aquifer zones and several models have been constructed to guide water management. A model of whole system is needed to provide reasonable and consistent boundary conditions for existing and future models.

Objectives - Determine boundary conditions for ground-water flow models that cover small areas of the more extensive basalt aquifers.

Approach - Develop a computer program to simulate steady-stage 3-dimensional flow of ground water in a 3-layer aquifer system. The finite-element method will be used to solve the ground-water flow equation. A ground-water flow model will be constructed for basalt aquifers in the Columbia River Group. The modeled area will be about 20,000 square miles, and the model will be surrounded by natural hydrologic boundaries. Data used to construct the model will be approximately 95% existing data and 5% new data. After calibrating and verifying the model, the modeled area will be subdivided into smaller areas that are not surrounded by natural hydrologic boundaries. Each small area will be studied to determine the approximate boundary conditions for a "small-area" model. Additional emphasis will be placed on determining boundary conditions for the Odessa-Lind area and the Pasco Basin.

WA209 - Artificial Recharge of Columbia River Basalt - Completed FY1982

Problem - A large area of potentially-productive agricultural land in the Columbia Basin overlies basalt aquifers of the Columbia River Group. Because average annual rainfall in this area is less than 10 inches, irrigation is required for most crops. Irrigation waters could be obtained from ground-water in the basalt or surface water from nearby rivers, streams, and lakes. However, because of the irregular topography of the area (deep gullies and coulees, and rolling hills) irrigation by surface water could be achieved only by means of expensive distribution systems, canals, and siphons. Irrigation by ground-water would be possible, but the storage capacity and natural rate of recharge would soon be exceeded. A solution might be attained with an irrigation system comprised of both wells and surface canals and which would rely on artificial recharge of the aquifers to maintain the ground-water portion of the system. The economic and technical feasibility of using such a system are presently unknown.

Objectives - The problem will be addressed in a 3-phase study. Phase I will involve determination of a gross estimate of the economic value of artificial recharge toward reducing the costs of the presently-planned project. This will involve identification of those model parameters that most affect the costs derived from the model. The results of Phase I, if favorable, will serve as a focal point for moving into Phase II. The purpose of Phase II is to examine any favorable results of Phase I under a much more rigorous set of conditions. If an artificial recharge project seems economically feasible, based on the results of Phases I and II, Phase III will be the conductance of an actual recharge experiment to evaluate the criteria assumed in Phases I and II.

Approach - Phase I.--Evaluate the costs involved in well construction, purchase of pumps and irrigation equipment, and pumping of ground water. Also determine costs of constructing a conventional irrigation system. Use these data to construct a cost-optimization model. Couple this with knowledge of the hydrology of the area gained from a ground-water model of the area and evaluate the economic feasibility of ground-water recharge and withdrawal. Phase II.--Assuming that the results of Phase I indicate economic feasibility, further refine the models and their input data. Phase III.--Assuming that the results of Phase I and II are acceptable, design and conduct an experiment to apply the assumptions made in Phases I and II. Reports will be written at the completion of each Phase of the project.

WA146 - Artificial Recharge of Columbia River Basalt - Completed FY1972

Problem - The Columbia River Group contains a system of aquifer zones of large areal extent. Pumping centers have stressed one or more of the aquifer zones and several models have been constructed to guide water management. A model of whole system is needed to provide reasonable and consistent boundary conditions for existing and future models.

Objectives - Determine boundary conditions for ground-water flow models that cover small areas of the more extensive basalt aquifers.

Approach - Develop a computer program to simulate steady-stage 3-dimensional flow of ground water in a 3-layer aquifer system. The finite-element method will be used to solve the ground-water flow equation. A ground-water flow model will be constructed for basalt aquifers in the Columbia River Group. The modeled area will be about 20,000 square miles, and the model will be surrounded by natural hydrologic boundaries. Data used to construct the model will be approximately 95% existing data and 5% new data. After calibrating and verifying the model, the modeled area will be subdivided into smaller areas that are not surrounded by natural hydrologic boundaries. Each small area will be studied to determine the approximate boundary conditions for a "small-area" model. Additional emphasis will be placed on determining boundary conditions for the Odessa-Lind area and the Pasco Basin.

WA117 - Ground Water Hydrology and Development in East-Central Washington - Completed FY1983

Problem - A rapid increase in the drilling of deep, large-capacity irrigation wells on the basalt plateau of east-central washington has created an urgent need for a comprehensive ground-water study in that area. Much of the region has been a dryland wheat-farming area for years; however, there has been an accelerated demand for ground-water for use in the irrigation of wheat since the late 1950's. The wells tend to be concentrated in certain areas some of which have already experienced declining water levels, are commonly 12 to 16-inch diameter, open holes in basalt from 300 to 100 feet deep. With continued development, water level decline may soon reach critical proportions.

Objectives - Determine in general detail the hydrologic character of the regional ground-water reservoir and predict its probable response to development by means of a digital model.

Approach - The principal quantitative effort will be aimed at areas of greatest development, with extrapolation to other areas. All large capacity wells and selected domestic and stock wells will be scheduled. Techniques will involve an observation network, water-level mass-measurement, power input-discharge studies, water-temperature studies, borehole geophysics, and broad scale aquifer tests.

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