The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Water Resources and Washington State Department of Ecology, investigated the hydrogeologic framework and ground-water budget of the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) aquifer located in northern Idaho and northeastern Washington. Descriptions of the hydrogeologic framework, water-budget components, and further data needs are provided. The SVRP aquifer, which covers about 370 square miles including the Rathdrum Prairie, Idaho, and the Spokane Valley and Hillyard Trough, Washington, is the sole source of drinking water for more than 500,000 residents. Continued growth, water-management issues, and potential effects on water availability and water quality in the aquifer and in the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers have illustrated the need to better understand and manage the region's water resources.
The SVRP aquifer consists mostly of gravels, cobbles, and boulders - deposited during a series of outburst floods resulting from repeated collapse of the ice dam that impounded ancient Glacial Lake Missoula. In most places, the SVRP aquifer is bounded by bedrock of pre-Tertiary granite or metasedimentary rocks, or Miocene basalt and associated sedimentary deposits. Discontinuous fine-grained layers are scattered throughout the SVRP aquifer at considerably different altitudes and with considerably different thicknesses. In the Hillyard Trough and the Little Spokane River Arm of the aquifer, a massive fine-grained layer with a top altitude ranging from about 1,500 to 1,700 feet and thickness ranging from about 100 to 200 feet separates the aquifer into upper and lower units. Most of the Spokane Valley part of the aquifer is devoid of fine-grained layers except near the margins of the valley and near the mouths of lakes. In the Rathdrum Prairie, multiple fine-grained layers are scattered throughout the aquifer with top altitudes ranging from about 1,700 to 2,400 feet with thicknesses ranging from 1 to more than 135 feet.
The altitude of the base of the aquifer ranges from less than 1,800 feet near Lake Pend Oreille to less than 1,200 feet near the aquifer's outlet near Long Lake. The thickness of the aquifer is more than 800 feet in the northwestern part of the northern Rathdrum Prairie, through the West Channel area, and through the west-central part of the Rathdrum Prairie. In Washington, the areas of greatest thickness, more than 600 feet, are mapped in the central parts of the Spokane Valley, Spokane, and the Hillyard Trough.
Recharge or inflow to the SVRP aquifer occurs from six main sources: the Spokane River, lakes, infiltration from precipitation over the aquifer, tributaries, infiltration from landscape irrigation and septic systems, and subsurface inflow. Discharge or outflow from the SVRP aquifer occurs from five main sources: the Spokane River, the Little Spokane River, pumpage, subsurface discharge to Long Lake, and infiltration of ground water to sewers. Total estimated mean annual inflow to and outflow from the SVRP aquifer is about 1,470 cubic feet per second.
Several data needs were identified during this investigation that would improve the definition of the hydrogeologic framework and ground-water budget components for the SVRP aquifer study area. Deep drilling along the axis of the aquifer could determine the depth to the bottom of the aquifer where data are currently unavailable as well as identify the presence of fine-grained layers and their thickness. A more detailed analysis of the geologic and hydrologic setting near the southern ends of Spirit and Hoodoo Valleys could help determine the location of the ground-water divide between the two valleys and the Rathdrum Prairie. Better estimates of seepage into the aquifer from Coeur d'Alene Lake and Lake Pend Oreille and underflow from the aquifer to Long Lake would strengthen the recharge and discharge estimates of the aquifer. A hydrochemical study incorporating analyses of envi