Hydrogeologic framework and groundwater/surface-water interactions of the Chehalis River basin, Washington

Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5160

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Chehalis Basin Partnership



The Chehalis River has the largest drainage basin of any river entirely contained within the State of Washington with a watershed of approximately 2,700 mi2 and has correspondingly diverse geology and land use. Demands for water resources have prompted the local citizens and governments of the Chehalis River basin to coordinate with Federal, State and Tribal agencies through the Chehalis Basin Partnership to develop a long-term watershed management plan. The recognition of the interdependence of groundwater and surface-water resources of the Chehalis River basin became the impetus for this study, the purpose of which is to describe the hydrogeologic framework and groundwater/surface-water interactions of the Chehalis River basin. Surficial geologic maps and 372 drillers' lithostratigraphic logs were used to generalize the basin-wide hydrogeologic framework. Five hydrogeologic units that include aquifers within unconsolidated glacial and alluvial sediments separated by discontinuous confining units were identified. These five units are bounded by a low permeability unit comprised of Tertiary bedrock. A water table map, and generalized groundwater-flow directions in the surficial aquifers, were delineated from water levels measured in wells between July and September 2009. Groundwater generally follows landsurface-topography from the uplands to the alluvial valley of the Chehalis River. Groundwater gradients are highest in tributary valleys such as the Newaukum River valley (approximately 23 cubic feet per mile), relatively flat in the central Chehalis River valley (approximately 6 cubic feet per mile), and become tidally influenced near the outlet of the Chehalis River to Grays Harbor. The dynamic interaction between groundwater and surface-water was observed through the synoptic streamflow measurements, termed a seepage run, made during August 2010, and monitoring of water levels in wells during the 2010 Water Year. The seepage run revealed an overall gain of 56.8 ± 23.7 cubic feet per second over 32.8 river miles (1.7 cubic feet per second per mile), and alternating gains and losses of streamflow ranging from -48.3 to 30.9 cubic feet per second per mile, which became more pronounced on the Chehalis River downstream of Grand Mound. However, most gains and losses were within measurement error. Groundwater levels measured in wells in unconsolidated sediments fluctuated with changes in stream stage, often within several hours. These fluctuations were set by precipitation events in the upper Chehalis River basin and tides of the Pacific Ocean in the lower Chehalis River basin.±

Study Area

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Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeologic framework and groundwater/surface-water interactions of the Chehalis River basin, Washington
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
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Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Washington Water Science Center
vi, 42 p.; 1Plate: 24 inches x 32 inches
Universal Transverse Mercator
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