Water Quality in the Yakima River Basin

Washington, 1999–2000


U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1237


By Gregory J. Fuhrer, Jennifer L. Morace, Henry M. Johnson, Joseph F. Rinella, James C. Ebbert, Sandra S. Embrey, Ian R. Waite, Kurt D. Carpenter,
Daniel R. Wise, and Curt A. Hughes


This circular is available as a pdf.


This report contains the major findings of a 1999–2000 assessment of water quality in streams and drains in the Yakima River Basin. It is one of a series of reports by the NAWQA Program that present major findings on water resources in 51 major river basins and aquifer systems across the Nation.


In these reports, water quality is assessed at many scales—from large rivers that drain lands having many uses to small agricultural watersheds—and is discussed in terms of local, State, and regional issues. Conditions in the Yakima River Basin are compared to those found elsewhere and to selected national benchmarks, such as those for drinking-water quality and the protection of aquatic organisms.


This report is intended for individuals working with water-resource issues in Federal, Tribal, State, or local agencies; universities; public interest groups; or the private sector. The information will be useful in addressing a number of current issues, such as source-water protection, pesticide registration, human health, drinking water, hypoxia and excessive growth of algae and plants, the effects of agricultural land use on water quality, and monitoring and sampling strategies. This report is also for individuals who wish to know more about the quality of water resources in areas near where they live, and how that water quality compares to the quality of water in other areas across the Nation.


Other products describing water-quality conditions in the Yakima River Basin are available. Detailed technical information, data and analyses, methodology, and maps that support the findings presented in this report can be accessed from Other reports in this series and data collected from other basins can be accessed from the national NAWQA Web site (


National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Summary of Major Findings

Introduction to the Yakima River Basin

Major Findings

High concentrations of nutrients result from agricultural activities

NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE—Small agricultural watersheds had large
percentages of elevated concentrations of nutrients

NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE—Ground-water discharges are a major source of
surface-water nitrate in irrigated areas of the Western United States

Bacteria indicate the presence of fecal contamination

Arsenic, a known human carcinogen, was detected at levels of concern

Historically used pesticides are still present in the Yakima River Basin

Currently used pesticides were routinely detected

Aquatic communities are affected by poor water-quality and habitat conditions
in intensely agricultural areas`

Study Unit Design

References Cited


Appendix—Water Quality Data from the Yakima River Basin in a National Context

Points of Contact and Additional Information


The companion Web site for NAWQA summary reports:


Yakima River Basin contact and Web site:

USGS State Representative

U.S. Geological Survey

Water Resources Discipline

10615 S.E. Cherry Blossom Drive

Portland, OR 97216–3159



National NAWQA Program:

Chief, NAWQA Program
U.S. Geological Survey
Water Resources Discipline
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, M.S. 413
Reston, VA 20192


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U.S. Geological Survey,

Information Services
Box 25286, Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225


For more information about the USGS and its products:

Telephone: 1-888-ASK-USGS
World Wide Web:


The text and graphics are presented here in pdf format (print quality). The full report is 25.1MB.


If you have Adobe® Acrobat® or Adobe® Acrobat® Reader® installed on your computer, you may view and print the PDF version of this report. Acrobat Reader, is a free download it from Adobe Systems, Inc.  Users with disabilities can view information concerning accessibility at


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