As ground water continues to provide an ever-growing proportion of Idaho?s drinking water, concerns about the quality of that resource are increasing. Pesticides (most commonly, atrazine/desethyl-atrazine, hereafter referred to as atrazine) and nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen (hereafter referred to as nitrate) have been detected in many aquifers in the State. To provide a sound hydrogeologic basis for atrazine and nitrate management in southern Idaho—the largest region of land and water use in the State—the U.S. Geological Survey produced maps showing the probability of detecting these contaminants in ground water in the upper Snake River Basin (published in a 1998 report) and the western Snake River Plain (published in this report). The atrazine probability map for the western Snake River Plain was constructed by overlaying ground-water quality data with hydrogeologic and anthropogenic data in a geographic information system (GIS). A data set was produced in which each well had corresponding information on land use, geology, precipitation, soil characteristics, regional depth to ground water, well depth, water level, and atrazine use. These data were analyzed by logistic regression using a statistical software package. Several preliminary multivariate models were developed and those that best predicted the detection of atrazine were selected. The multivariate models then were entered into a GIS and the probability maps were produced. Land use, precipitation, soil hydrologic group, and well depth were significantly correlated with atrazine detections in the western Snake River Plain. These variables also were important in the 1998 probability study of the upper Snake River Basin. The effectiveness of the probability models for atrazine might be improved if more detailed data were available for atrazine application. A preliminary atrazine probability map for the entire Snake River Plain in Idaho, based on a data set representing that region, also was produced. In areas where this map overlaps the 1998 map of the upper Snake River Basin, the two maps show broadly similar probabilities of detecting atrazine. Logistic regression also was used to develop a preliminary statistical model that predicts the probability of detecting elevated nitrate in the western Snake River Plain. A nitrate probability map was produced from this model. Results showed that elevated nitrate concentrations were correlated with land use, soil organic content, well depth, and water level. Detailed information on nitrate input, specifically fertilizer application, might have improved the effectiveness of this model.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Probability of detecting atrazine/desethyl-atrazine and elevated concentrations of nitrate plus nitrate as nitrogen in ground water in the Idaho part of the western Snake River Plain