Project Contacts
Matt Bachmann
(253) 552-1672

Sue Kahle
(253) 552-1616

934 Broadway,
Suite 300
Tacoma, WA 98402
graphic line

Yakima River Basin

Project Summaries

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9722-A4W - Ground Water in the Yakima River Basin, Washington, and its Relation to the Surface-Water Resource - Completed FY2011

Problem and Needs - The surface water in the Yakima River Basin is under adjudication and it is not known how much is available for appropriation. There are increasing demands for water for municipal, fisheries, agricultural, industrial, and recreational uses which must be met by ground-water withdrawals and/or by changes in the way water resources are allocated and used. On-going activities in the basin to enhance fisheries and to obtain additional water for agriculture may be affected by ground-water withdrawals and by rules implemented under the Endangered Species Act for salmonid fish. An integrated understanding of the ground-water flow system and its relation to the surface-water resources is needed to implement most water-resources management strategies in the basin.

Objectives - The objectives of the study are to describe the ground-water flow system and its interaction with surface water, and to integrate this information into a water-resources management tool--a numerical model. The improved understanding of the system can be used to describe concepts to laypersons and to guide and support actions taken by natural-resources management agencies. The numerical model will be an integrated tool for daily to long-term water-resources management and for testing potential management strategies

Relevance and Benefits - The study addresses many issues identified in the USGS Water Resources Division's strategic plan for meeting the Nation's water-resources needs. They include the development of tools for managing the Nation's watersheds effectively and the improvement of existing simulation tools. Other important issues include the assessment of availability and sustainability of America's water, estimating effects of land-use and management alternatives on water quantity, and determining effects of ground-water withdrawals on surface water and aquatic ecology. The USGS is a neutral scientific party that provides information and develops models to solve important problems that are common in the Nation.

Approach - The study will be conducted in three phases. The first phase includes: (1) project planning and coordination, (2) gathering, compiling, documenting, and assessing available data, and (3) collecting initial data. The second phase consists of data-collection activities to support: (1) mapping of hydrogeologic units, (2) estimating ground-water use, (3) developing estimates of ground-water recharge, and (4) constructing maps of ground-water levels. Together, these four work elements provide the information for an overall description of the ground-water flow system and the building blocks for the hydrogeologic framework. In the third phase, a numerical model or models will be constructed of the ground-water flow system to integrate the available information. The model will be used to gain an understanding of the flow system and its relation to surface water, and to test management strategies. The model will be available for public use.

Bathymetric Survey of the Union Gap and Wapato Reaches and Determination of Stage-Discharge Relationship at Four Sites in the Yakima River Basin

An amendment to the Yakima Ground Water Project for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

April 2004

Background - The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and the Water Resources Discipline (WRD) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are working under an agreement to describe the ground-water flow system and its interaction with and relation to surface water in the Yakima River Basin, including integrating this information into a numerical model of ground-water flow. An important component of the model is estimating gains and losses along the river. Typically, a constant elevation is used to describe the stage of the river, and these values are based on topographic maps and possibly some point measurements. Combinations of new technologies provide the ability to estimate stage longitudinally along the river under different flow regimes. The new technologies include combining real-time differentialcorrected GPS x, y, z-values interfaced with data obtained from a boat-mounted survey-grade depth sounder. Resulting data can be integrated with high-resolution digital-elevation data obtained from Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) to create a topographic map of the river system. In turn, this topographic map is used as input into a two-dimensional (2-D) hydrodynamic flow model to estimate stage along the river at various discharge values. The stage values will greatly improve the ability to analyze potential gains and losses using the flow model. Constructed bathymetric maps will allow for assessment of the relation between the riverís bottom and the elevation of the water-table in the shallow aquifer system. Such an assessment will yield valuable information for calibrating the ground-water model, assessing potential effects of shallow pumpage on the river, and understanding the hydrology of the alluvial aquifer in the basin. Detailed bathymetry and stage-discharge relationships at the end of four reaches from the study also provide necessary information to simulate habitat conditions. The Biological Resources Discipline (BRD), who is constructing the 2-D hydrodynamic model, will use it to simulate habitat conditions. WRD will supply the bathymetry to BRD for two reaches using the described technology and the stage-discharge relationships at the end of four reaches.

Objectives - The objectives of this study are:

  1. Acquire high-resolution, bathymetry of the Yakima River from near Parker (river mile 103.6) to near Granger (river mile 83) (exact start and end points to be determined) and of the Yakima River from near the Naches River (about river mile 115) to Union Gap (river mile 107).
  2. Determine stage-discharge relationship at the downstream end of four USBR study reaches in the Yakima River Basin


Approach for objective 1: Survey channel bathymetry of the Study Reaches:
Bathymetry will be acquired by a boat-mounted survey-grade depth sounder interfaced with a GPS. Longitudinal surveys up or down the main channel reach will be made with a 16 ft. boat with a jet motor. While acquiring GPS signals on the boat, a second base-station GPS will be set over a survey monument with established coordinates to provide differential corrections to the boat-mounted GPS positions. The vertical accuracies will be about 0.1 feet relative to the survey monuments. The longitudinal surveys will also include the water-surface profile for the reach. In addition to the longitudinal profiles on the main channel, cross-sectional surveys will be made at about every 1 or 2 channel widths. Where navigable, side channels will also be surveyed in the above manner. Other large side channels not navigable by the boat will be surveyed for bottom elevations by wading with a GPS that is also in radio contact with the base-station GPS.

Approach for objective 2: Determine stage-discharge relationships at the downstream end of four USBR study reaches:
Discharge will be measured at a suitable location approximately 1000-2000 yards upstream of the end of each reach. A benchmark will be established near the discharge measuring point so that stage can be measured conveniently whenever a discharge measurement is made. The benchmark will be surveyed with survey-grade GPS and tied into the same datum as used for the channel bathymetry survey. Two or more discharge measurements will be made at as wide a range of stage as possible that the short timeframe of this project allows. A step-backwater model can be constructed to estimate the stage-discharge relationship (rating) from the cross-section data, discharge data, and estimates of channel roughness. If three or more discharge measurements are made at both low and high stages, a step-backwater model may not be needed to define the rating for the reach. Otherwise a step-backwater model will be constructed using cross sectional data downstream of the discharge measurement point, a cross section at the discharge-measurement location, and at least one cross section upstream of the measuring location. The discharge measurements will be used to calibrate the model. Once a satisfactory model has been constructed, the rating for the complete range of stages can be made.

WA314 - Yakima Gasoline and Diesel Spill Study - Completed FY1987

Problem - Ground-Water contamination caused by petroleum hydrocarbons is recognized as a major widespread problem. However, there is a lack of knowledge as to the physical, chemical, and biologic processes that affect the movement and fate of these contaminants in a ground-water environment. In accordance with objectives of the National thrust program on ground-water contamination and toxic waste, the Pacific Northwest District, in November 1984, began a project to locate a site for the study of a volatile organic substance moving both through the saturated and unsaturated zones. A combined gasoline and diesel spill at Yakima, Washington, was proposed and selected as a national research Site. The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) has determined that a 12,000 to 22,000 gallon spill occurred at an Exxon service station as a result of leaking delivery lines from the product storage tanks to the dispensers. The spill may be composed of 77 percent gasoline, 23 percent diesel.

Objectives - To carry out a three-phase program in cooperation with the Office of Hazardous Waste Hydrology (OHWH) for the study of the physical, chemical, and biological processes that affect the fate and movement of gasoline and diesel in a ground-water environment. The three phases are: (1) Development of a detailed work plan of research to be conducted at the site; (2) Characterization of the geohydrology of the site and vicinity; and (3) Research on contamination movement and reaction processes in association with work in Phase 2. This will involve input from members of the National Research Program (NRP).

Approach - Prepare a brief site and spill summary and solicit comments and suggestions provide an early opportunity for interested parties to become familiar with the site and begin planning research and/or participation in the development of the work plan. Conduct a detailed literature search and review to identify important physical, chemical, and biological processes and research needs. Characterize the geohydrology of the site and vicinity and determine the contaminant plume geometry, focusing initially on verifying that the site is suitable for research and obtaining the geohydrologic information needed to aid in developing research projects. The information and data collected will be used to plan test drilling and other activities related to geohydrology in the coming fiscal years. Research proposals will be developed based on the processes that are identified in Phases 1 and 2.

WA312 - Areal Variability of Water Quality Within the Yakima River Basin - Completed FY1986

Problem - The USGS is collecting streamflow and water-quality data as part of a nationwide program known as National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN). It is impractical to measure quantity and quality of water in every tributary in a basin, therefore NASQAN stations generally are located at or near the terminus of a river to measure the temporal variability in water quality. One of the purposes of NASQAN sampling is to identify problem areas that need special emphasis in national planning, but the location of NASQAN stations at only one or two downstream points in a basin may be inadequate to identify specific upstream problem areas. The Yakima Basin is a prime example of a multiple-use, water-resources system; its basin covers an intricate system of streams, canals, and impoundments. The two NASQAN stations in the basin probably do not adequately define the stream quality of the entire basin.

Objectives - Describe the areal variability of water quality within the Yakima River basin.

Approach - We will review the natural features and history of water development in the basin; assemble and review all available information on the geology, hydrology, soils, population, point-source pollution, and other USGS and non-USGS water-quality data; describe the probability distributions of selected chemical constituents and properties at stations in the basin where systematic sampling has occurred; estimate transport rates for the period of record for key parameters, arranging results in map form to show chemical fluxes; perform trend analysis on selected constituents, using parametric and nonparametric statistical techniques where three or more years of regularly collected data exist; and determine optimum collection sites, sampling frequencies, and constituent coverage that adequately describe the general water quality throughout the basin as well as impacted reaches within the basin.

WA277 - Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project - Completed FY1986

Problem - The Yakima River and tributaries are the primary source for surface water in south-central Washington. The Yakima Valley has experienced problems of insufficient water supply since the early 1900's despite the operation of a reservoir/diversion system and enactment by the State of Washington of right-to-use permit system. In an effort to develop alternatives to litigation for resolving problems caused by water shortages, Washington State and the Yakima Indian Nation conceived the idea of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Plan (YRBWEP). Public Law 96-162 authorized the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to conduct a YRBWEP Feasibility Study to study structural and nonstructural solutions to the problems of inadequate water supply for presently irrigated land, water for irrigation of additional lands within the Yakima Reservation, and develop a comprehensive management plan.

Objectives - The Bureau of Reclamation has identified 5 elements in their work plan for the study that could benefit from technical review or participation by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): (1) Develop a Yakima River monthly operations planning model; (2) Define and schedule the water-flow requirements for irrigation, municipal supply, fish propagation, etc.; (3) Evaluate the structural and nonstructural alternative measures that may be applied to conserve the available surface water; (4) Formulate preliminary water-enhancement plans that are logical combinations of storage reservoirs, distribution systems and conservation measures; and (5) Perform detailed monthly operations studies for promising enhancement plans and a final monthly operations study.

Approach - Hydrologists in the Washington District, Water Resources Division (WRD), USGS, will provide the technical reviews or participation for the designated five elements of the feasibility study in those areas in which the USGS has demonstrated technical expertise.

WA219 - Water in the lower Yakima River Basin - Completed FY1983

Problem - The Columbia-North Pacific Type I study summarized available data on the hydrology in Washington. This "broad-brush" analysis helped point out the lack of information in many basins in the State. The Washington State Department of Ecology has found that rough quantitative basin analyses aimed at the decision-maker have been invaluable in the day-to-day decisions necessary in the management of the State's water resources. Published reports resulting from the studies to date cover the Okanogan, Methow, Palouse, and Skagit River basins, and two reports in review cover the upper Yakima River basin and Horse Heaven Hills. These reports are of great value to the Department of Ecology in their water-management decisions and have also been useful to other Federal, State, County, and municipal agencies, consultants, and individuals.

Objectives - To compile and analyze available hydrologic data on pertinent precipitation, streamflow characteristics, canal diversions and irrigation, ground-water occurrence, surface- and ground-water quality, water use for municipal, industrial, and irrigation supplies, and variations between years. To make general interpretations of the quantitative and qualitative elements in the hydrologic system in the lower Yakima River basin.

Approach - A literature search will be made of all pertinent previous geohydrologic studies in the basin, all available data on precipitation, streamflow characteristics and water quality, ground-water data and water-use data. Existing soils and geologic maps will be studied to evaluate the geohydrologic conditions in various parts of the basin.