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Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5091

Prepared in cooperation with the State of Idaho, Idaho Power Company, and the Idaho Department of Water Resources

Evaluation of Seepage and Discharge Uncertainty in the Middle Snake River, Southwestern Idaho

By Molly S. Wood, Marshall L. Williams, David M. Evetts, and Peter J. Vidmar

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (7.6 MB)Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the State of Idaho, Idaho Power Company, and the Idaho Department of Water Resources, evaluated seasonal seepage gains and losses in selected reaches of the middle Snake River, Idaho, during November 2012 and July 2013, and uncertainty in measured and computed discharge at four Idaho Power Company streamgages. Results from this investigation will be used by resource managers in developing a protocol to calculate and report Adjusted Average Daily Flow at the Idaho Power Company streamgage on the Snake River below Swan Falls Dam, near Murphy, Idaho, which is the measurement point for distributing water to owners of hydropower and minimum flow water rights in the middle Snake River. The evaluated reaches of the Snake River were from King Hill to Murphy, Idaho, for the seepage studies and downstream of Lower Salmon Falls Dam to Murphy, Idaho, for evaluations of discharge uncertainty.

Computed seepage was greater than cumulative measurement uncertainty for subreaches along the middle Snake River during November 2012, the non-irrigation season, but not during July 2013, the irrigation season. During the November 2012 seepage study, the subreach between King Hill and C J Strike Dam had a meaningful (greater than cumulative measurement uncertainty) seepage gain of 415 cubic feet per second (ft3/s), and the subreach between Loveridge Bridge and C J Strike Dam had a meaningful seepage gain of 217 ft3/s. The meaningful seepage gain measured in the November 2012 seepage study was expected on the basis of several small seeps and springs present along the subreach, regional groundwater table contour maps, and results of regional groundwater flow model simulations. Computed seepage along the subreach from C J Strike Dam to Murphy was less than cumulative measurement uncertainty during November 2012 and July 2013; therefore, seepage cannot be quantified with certainty along this subreach.

For the uncertainty evaluation, average uncertainty in discharge measurements at the four Idaho Power Company streamgages in the study reach ranged from 4.3 percent (Snake River below Lower Salmon Falls Dam) to 7.8 percent (Snake River below C J Strike Dam) for discharges less than 7,000 ft3/s in water years 2007–11. This range in uncertainty constituted most of the total quantifiable uncertainty in computed discharge, represented by prediction intervals calculated from the discharge rating of each streamgage. Uncertainty in computed discharge in the Snake River below Swan Falls Dam near Murphy was 10.1 and 6.0 percent at the Adjusted Average Daily Flow thresholds of 3,900 and 5,600 ft3/s, respectively. All discharge measurements and records computed at streamgages have some level of uncertainty that cannot be entirely eliminated. Knowledge of uncertainty at the Adjusted Average Daily Flow thresholds is useful for developing a measurement and reporting protocol for purposes of distributing water to hydropower and minimum flow water rights in the middle Snake River.

First posted June 3, 2014

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:

Wood, M.S., Williams, M.L., Evetts, D.M, and Vidmar, P.J., 2014, Evaluation of seepage and discharge uncertainty in the middle Snake River, southwestern Idaho: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5091, 34 p.,

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)




Seepage Evaluation

Discharge Uncertainty Evaluation

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

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