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Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5047

Prepared in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Water Resources

An Evaluation of Seepage Gains and Losses in Indian Creek Reservoir, Ada County, Idaho, April 2010–November 2011

By Marshall L. Williams and Alexandra B. Etheridge

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (9.6 MB)Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Water Resources, conducted an investigation on Indian Creek Reservoir, a small impoundment in east Ada County, Idaho, to quantify groundwater seepage into and out of the reservoir. Data from the study will assist the Idaho Water Resources Department’s Comprehensive Aquifer Management Planning effort to estimate available water resources in Ada County. Three independent methods were utilized to estimate groundwater seepage: (1) the water-budget method; (2) the seepage-meter method; and (3) the segmented Darcy method. Reservoir seepage was quantified during the periods of April through August 2010 and February through November 2011.

With the water-budget method, all measureable sources of inflow to and outflow from the reservoir were quantified, with the exception of groundwater; the water-budget equation was solved for groundwater inflow to or outflow from the reservoir. The seepage-meter method relies on the placement of seepage meters into the bottom sediments of the reservoir for the direct measurement of water flux across the sediment-water interface. The segmented-Darcy method utilizes a combination of water-level measurements in the reservoir and in adjacent near-shore wells to calculate water-table gradients between the wells and the reservoir within defined segments of the reservoir shoreline. The Darcy equation was used to calculate groundwater inflow to and outflow from the reservoir. Water-budget results provided continuous, daily estimates of seepage over the full period of data collection, while the seepage-meter and segmented Darcy methods provided instantaneous estimates of seepage. As a result of these and other difference in methodologies, comparisons of seepage estimates provided by the three methods are considered semi-quantitative.

The results of the water-budget derived estimates of seepage indicate seepage to be seasonally variable in terms of the direction and magnitude of flow. The reservoir tended to gain water from seepage of groundwater in the early spring months (March–May), while seepage losses to groundwater from the reservoir occurred in the drier months (June–October). Net monthly seepage rates, as computed by the water-budget method, varied greatly. Reservoir gains from seepage ranged from 0.2 to 59.4 acre-feet per month, while reservoir losses to seepage ranged from 1.6 and 26.8 acre-feet per month. An analysis of seepage meter estimates and segmented-Darcy estimates qualitatively supports the seasonal patterns in seepage provided by the water-budget calculations, except that they tended to be much smaller in magnitude. This suggests that actual seepage might be smaller than those estimates made by the water-budget method.

Although the results of all three methods indicate that there is some water loss from the reservoir to groundwater, the seepage losses may be due to rewetting of unsaturated near-shore soils, possible replenishment of a perched aquifer, or both, rather than through percolation to the local aquifer that lies 130 feet below the reservoir. A lithologic log from an adjacent well indicates the existence of a clay lithology that is well correlated to the original reservoir’s base elevation. If the clay lithologic unit extends beneath the reservoir basin underlying the fine-grain reservoir bed sediments, the clay layer should act as an effective barrier to reservoir seepage to the local aquifer, which would explain the low seepage loss estimates calculated in this study.

First posted March 28, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, Idaho Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
230 Collins Road
Boise, Idaho 83702

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Suggested citation:

Williams, M.L., and Etheridge, A.B., 2013, An evaluation of seepage gains and losses in Indian Creek Reservoir, Ada County, Idaho, April 2010–November 2011: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013-5047, 26 p.





Reservoir Seepage



References Cited


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