Hydrologic influences on water-level changes in the Eastern Snake River Plain aquifer at and near the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 1949-2014

Scientific Investigations Report 2015-5085
U.S. Department of Energy
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Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, has maintained a water-level monitoring program at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) since 1949 to systematically measure water levels to provide long-term information on groundwater recharge, discharge, movement, and storage in the eastern Snake River Plain (ESRP) aquifer. During 2014, water levels in the ESRP aquifer reached all-time lows for the period of record, prompting this study to assess the effect that future water-level declines may have on pumps and wells. Water-level data were compared with pump-setting depth to determine the hydraulic head above the current pump setting. Additionally, geophysical logs were examined to address changes in well productivity with water-level declines. Furthermore, hydrologic factors that affect water levels in different areas of the INL were evaluated to help understand why water-level changes occur.

Review of pump intake placement and 2014 water-level data indicates that 40 wells completed within the ESRP aquifer at the INL have 20 feet (ft) or less of head above the pump. Nine of the these wells are located in the northeastern and northwestern areas of the INL where recharge is predominantly affected by irrigation, wet and dry cycles of precipitation, and flow in the Big Lost River. Water levels in northeastern and northwestern wells generally show water-level fluctuations of as much as 4.5 ft seasonally and show declines as much as 25 ft during the past 14 years.

In the southeastern area of the INL, seven wells were identified as having less than 20 ft of water remaining above the pump. Most of the wells in the southeast show less decline over the period of record compared with wells in the northeast; the smaller declines are probably attributable to less groundwater withdrawal from pumping of wells for irrigation. In addition, most of the southeastern wells show only about a 1–2 ft fluctuation seasonally because they are less influenced by groundwater withdrawals for irrigation.

In the southwestern area of the INL, 24 wells were identified as having less than 20 ft of water remaining above the pump. Wells in the southwest also only show small 1–2 ft fluctuations seasonally because of a lack of irrigation influence. Wells show larger fluctuation in water levels closer to the Big Lost River and fluctuate in response to wet and dry cycles of recharge to the Big Lost River.

Geophysical logs indicate that most of the wells evaluated will maintain their current production until the water level declines to the depth of the pump. A few of the wells may become less productive once the water level gets to within about 5 ft from the top of the pump. Wells most susceptible to future drought cycles are those in the northeastern and northwestern areas of the INL.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Hydrologic influences on water-level changes in the Eastern Snake River Plain aquifer at and near the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 1949-2014
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2015-5085
DOI 10.3133/sir20155085
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Idaho Water Science Center
Description Report: v, 37 p.; 1 Appendix
Country United States
State Idaho
Other Geospatial Eastern Snake River Plain
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y