Optimization of the Idaho National Laboratory Water-Quality Aquifer Monitoring Network, Southeastern Idaho

Scientific Investigations Report 2021-5031
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy
By: , and 



Long-term monitoring of water-quality data collected from wells at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has provided essential information for delineating the movement of radiochemical and chemical wastes in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer, southeastern Idaho. Since 1949, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, has maintained as many as 200 wells in the INL water-quality monitoring network. A network design tool, distributed as an R package, was developed to evaluate and optimize groundwater monitoring in the existing network based on water-quality data collected at 153 sampling sites since January 1, 1989. The objective of the optimization design tool is to reduce well monitoring redundancy while retaining sufficient data to reliably characterize water-quality conditions in the aquifer. A spatial optimization was used to identify a set of wells whose removal leads to the smallest increase in the deviation between interpolated concentration maps using the existing and reduced monitoring networks while preserving significant long-term trends and seasonal components in the data. Additionally, a temporal optimization was used to identify reductions in sampling frequencies by minimizing the redundancy in sampling events.

Spatial optimization uses an islands genetic algorithm to identify near-optimal network designs removing 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 wells from the existing monitoring network. With this method, choosing a greater number of wells to remove results in greater cost savings and decreased accuracy of the average relative difference between interpolated maps of the reduced-dataset and the full-dataset. The genetic search algorithm identified reduced networks that best capture the spatial patterns of the average concentration plume while preserving long-term temporal trends at individual wells. Concentration data for 10 analyte types are integrated in a single optimization so that all datasets may be evaluated simultaneously. A constituent was selected for inclusion in the spatial optimization problem when the observations were sufficient to (1) establish a two-range variability model, (2) classify at least one concentration time series as a continuous record block, and (3) make a prediction using the quantile-kriging interpolation method. The selected constituents include sodium, chloride, sulfate, nitrate, carbon tetrachloride, 1,1-dichloroethylene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, trichloroethylene, tritium, strontium-90, and plutonium-238.

In temporal optimization, an iterative-thinning method was used to find an optimal sampling frequency for each analyte-well pair. Optimal frequencies indicate that for many of the wells, samples may be collected less frequently and still be able to characterize the concentration over time. The optimization results indicated that the sample-collection interval may be increased by an of average of 273 days owing to temporal redundancy.

Suggested Citation

Fisher, J.C., Bartholomay, R.C., Rattray, G.W., and Maimer, N.V., 2021, Optimization of the Idaho National Laboratory water-quality aquifer monitoring network, southeastern Idaho: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2021–5031 (DOE/ID-22252), 63 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20215031.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Sources and Descriptions of Data
  • Temporal Regression
  • Spatial Interpolation
  • Spatial Optimization
  • Temporal Optimization
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • Acknowledgments
  • Appendixes
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Optimization of the Idaho National Laboratory water-quality aquifer monitoring network, southeastern Idaho
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2021-5031
DOI 10.3133/sir20215031
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Idaho Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 63 p.; Appendix 1-12; 2 Software Releases
Country United States
State Idaho
Other Geospatial Idaho National Laboratory
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details