Surface-water supplies from the Colville River, small tributary creeks, and lakes are abundant in summer but limited in winter by low or zero flow in streams and thick ice cover on lakes.
Fresh ground water occurs in unfrozen zones in alluvium and in the upper part of bedrock beneath the Colville River and beneath lakes that do not freeze to the bottom in winter. These unfrozen zones, forming depressions in the upper surface of permafrost, are maintained by flow of heat from bodies of surface water into subjacent alluvium and bedrock.
Brackish or saline ground water occurs in bedrock beneath as much as 1,055 feet of permafrost in the Arctic foothills and beneath 750 to 800 feet of permafrost beneath low terraces of the Colville River valley. The foothill area is unfavorable for developing supplies of potable ground water because of the great depth to water, predominance of brackish or saline water, and low potential yield of the bedrock. In the Colville River valley, shallow unfrozen alluvium beneath the river and deep lakes will yield abundant year-round supplies of ground water, but the bedrock below permafrost yields less than 10 gpm (gallons per minute) of saline or brackish water.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
A review of water resources of the Umiat area, northern Alaska