USGS Washington Water Science Center
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Demand for water has increased steadily in Thurston County in recent years because of rapid population growth. Surface-water resources have been fully appropriated for many years, so the county now relies entirely on ground water for new supplies of water for domestic, public-supply, agricultural, and industrial uses. Any additional development imposes additional stress on the ground-water system. The Thurston County Health Department needs increased knowledge of the ground-water system in order to best manage the resource. They also recognize the need for a tool such as a numerical computer model of the ground-water system to assess the response of the ground-water system to future development.
To help the County Health Department better understand and manage future development of the ground-water system, the USGS is using existing data to describe and quantify the ground-water system in the 675 square miles of glacial draft that cover most of the county to a depth of as much as 2,000 feet. The study includes describing the general chemical characteristics of water in the major aquifers and areal patterns of any ground-water contamination. Hydrologists also are using the existing data to construct a numerical ground-water-flow model of the system that will allow them to quantify the components of a water budget, identify probable areas of ground-water recharge and discharge, and simulate ground-water flow paths. The County Health Department will be able to use the completed model to test the regional effects of proposed development.