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Open-File Report 2014–1164

Prepared in cooperation with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Technical Review of Managed Underground Storage of Water Study of the Upper Catherine Creek Watershed, Union County, Northeastern Oregon

By Daniel T. Snyder

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (2.2 MB)Executive Summary

Because of water diversions during summer, flow in Catherine Creek, a tributary to the Grande Ronde River in northeastern Oregon, is insufficient to sustain several aquatic species for which the stream is listed as critical habitat. A feasibility study for managed underground storage (MUS) in the upper Catherine Creek watershed in Union County, Oregon, was undertaken by Anderson Perry and Associates, Inc., to address the issue of low flows in summer. The results of the study were released as a report titled “Upper Catherine Creek Storage Feasibility Study for Grande Ronde Model Watershed,” which evaluated the possibility of diverting Catherine Creek streamflow during winter (when stream discharge is high), storing the water by infiltration or injection into an aquifer adjacent to the stream, and discharging the water back to the stream in summer to augment low flows. The method of MUS would be accomplished using either (1) aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) that allows for the injection of water that meets drinking-water-quality standards into an aquifer for later recovery and use, or (2) artificial recharge (AR) that involves the intentional addition of water diverted from another source to a groundwater reservoir.

Concerns by resource managers that the actions taken to improve water availability for upper Catherine Creek be effective, cost-efficient, long-term, and based on sound analysis led the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to request that the U.S. Geological Survey conduct an independent review and evaluation of the feasibility study. This report contains the results of that review.

The primary objectives of the Anderson Perry and Associates study reviewed here included (1) identifying potentially fatal flaws with the concept of using AR and (or) ASR to augment the streamflow of Catherine Creek, (2) identifying potentially favorable locations for augmenting streamflow, (3) developing and evaluating alternatives for implementing AR and (or) ASR, and (4) identifying next steps and estimated costs for implementation. The Anderson Perry study was not intended as a comprehensive evaluation of feasibility, but, rather, an effort to develop a concept and preliminary evaluation of feasibility. Additionally, the feasibility study was limited to using existing data from which additional data needs were to be identified. The feasibility study mostly accomplished the goals of identifying potential fatal flaws and developing a project implementation plan. However, a more practical discussion of conclusions regarding the feasibility, likelihood for success, achievement of goals, and overall project costs could have received greater emphasis and would be of value to decision makers. With regard to objective (2), the subject report analyzed information from several possible sites examined for an MUS system. Sufficient cause is provided in the subject report to identify the basalt aquifer in the Milk Creek sub-area as having the greatest potential for MUS. Therefore, this review is primarily focused on the Milk Creek sub-area and the basalt aquifer.

First posted August 7, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Director, Oregon Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2130 SW 5th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97201

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Suggested citation:

Snyder, D.T., 2014, Technical review of managed underground storage of water study of the upper Catherine Creek watershed, Union County, northeastern Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014-1164, 38 p.,

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)


Executive Summary


Technical Review

Selected References

Appendix A. Typographical Errors and Issues of Minor Importance

Appendix B. Analysis of Water and Aquifer Storage Requirements

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