Quality of the ground water in basalt of the Columbia River group, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho

Water Supply Paper 1999-N




The ground water within the 50,000-square-mile area of the layered basalt of the Columbia River Group is a generally uniform bicarbonate water having calcium and sodium in nearly equal amounts as the principal cations. water contains a relatively large amount of silica. The 525 chemical analyses indicate that the prevalent ground water is of two related kinds--a calcium and a sodium water. The sodium water is more common beneath the floors of the main synclinal valleys; the calcium water, elsewhere. In addition to the prevalent type, five special types form a small part of the ground water; four of these are natural and one is artificial. The four natural special types are: (1) calcium sodium chloride waters that rise from underlying sedimentary rocks west of the Cascade Range, (2) mineralized water at or near warm or hot springs, (3) water having unusual ion concentrations, especially of chloride, near sedimentary rocks intercalated at the edges of the basalt, and (4) more mineralized water near one locality of excess carbon dioxide. The one artificial kind of special ground water has resulted from unintentional artificial recharge incidental to irrigation in parts of central Washington. The solids dissolved in the ground water have been picked up on the surface, within the overburden, and from minerals and glasses within the basalt. Evidence for the removal of ions from solution is confined to calcium and magnesium, only small amounts of which are present in some of the sodium-rich water. Minor constituents, such as the heavy metals, alkali metals, and alkali earths, occur in the ground water in trace, or small, amounts. The natural radioactivity of the ground waters is very low. Except for a few of the saline calcium sodium chloride waters and a few occurrences of excessive nitrate, the ground water generally meets the common standards of water good for most ordinary uses, but some of it can be improved by treatment. The water is clear and colorless and has a temperature slightly higher than would be indicated by the accepted 'normal' earth gradient. A small amount of iron is present in some of the water and a slight amount of hydrogen sulfide gas is present in water from most wells. Carbon-14 determinations indicate that the water has been underground for periods ranging from modern times to several tens of thousands of years. Generally, an increase in the age of the water corresponds to depth and with location in the central parts of the main structural basins. The evidence of correlations between chemical characteristics and the age of the water is limited to the excessive nitrate which occurs in young, shallow ground water and to the apparent base-exchange removal of calcium and magnesium that has occurred where the ground water is old.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Quality of the ground water in basalt of the Columbia River group, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
Contributing office(s):
Oregon Water Science Center
iv, 71 p. :illus. map (fold. col. in pocket) ;23 cm.