Multilevel groundwater monitoring of hydraulic head and temperature in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 2009–10

Scientific Investigations Report 2012-5259

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy



During 2009 and 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Idaho National Laboratory Project Office, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, collected quarterly, depth-discrete measurements of fluid pressure and temperature in nine boreholes located in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer. Each borehole was instrumented with a multilevel monitoring system consisting of a series of valved measurement ports, packer bladders, casing segments, and couplers. Multilevel monitoring at the Idaho National Laboratory has been ongoing since 2006. This report summarizes data collected from three multilevel monitoring wells installed during 2009 and 2010 and presents updates to six multilevel monitoring wells. Hydraulic heads (heads) and groundwater temperatures were monitored from 9 multilevel monitoring wells, including 120 hydraulically isolated depth intervals from 448.0 to 1,377.6 feet below land surface. Quarterly head and temperature profiles reveal unique patterns for vertical examination of the aquifer’s complex basalt and sediment stratigraphy, proximity to aquifer recharge and discharge, and groundwater flow. These features contribute to some of the localized variability even though the general profile shape remained consistent over the period of record. Major inflections in the head profiles almost always coincided with low-permeability sediment layers and occasionally thick sequences of dense basalt. However, the presence of a sediment layer or dense basalt layer was insufficient for identifying the location of a major head change within a borehole without knowing the true areal extent and relative transmissivity of the lithologic unit. Temperature profiles for boreholes completed within the Big Lost Trough indicate linear conductive trends; whereas, temperature profiles for boreholes completed within the axial volcanic high indicate mostly convective heat transfer resulting from the vertical movement of groundwater. Additionally, temperature profiles provide evidence for stratification and mixing of water types along the southern boundary of the Idaho National Laboratory. Vertical head and temperature change were quantified for each of the nine multilevel monitoring systems. The vertical head gradients were defined for the major inflections in the head profiles and were as high as 2.1 feet per foot. Low vertical head gradients indicated potential vertical connectivity and flow, and large gradient inflections indicated zones of relatively low vertical connectivity. Generally, zones that primarily are composed of fractured basalt displayed relatively small vertical head differences. Large head differences were attributed to poor vertical connectivity between fracture units because of sediment layering and/or dense basalt. Groundwater temperatures in all boreholes ranged from 10.2 to 16.3˚C. Normalized mean hydraulic head values were analyzed for all nine multilevel monitoring wells for the period of record (2007-10). The mean head values suggest a moderately positive correlation among all boreholes, which reflects regional fluctuations in water levels in response to seasonality. However, the temporal trend is slightly different when the location is considered; wells located along the southern boundary, within the axial volcanic high, show a strongly positive correlation.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Multilevel groundwater monitoring of hydraulic head and temperature in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 2009–10
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Idaho Water Science Center
Report: vii, 44 p.; Appendicies A-G
United States
North American Datum of 1927
Universal Transverse Mercator projection
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