Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5085

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy

Hydrologic Influences on Water-Level Changes in the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer at and near the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 1949–2014

By Roy C. Bartholomay and Brian V. Twining

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (2.8 MB)Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, has maintained a water-level monitoring program at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) since 1949 to systematically measure water levels to provide long-term information on groundwater recharge, discharge, movement, and storage in the eastern Snake River Plain (ESRP) aquifer. During 2014, water levels in the ESRP aquifer reached all-time lows for the period of record, prompting this study to assess the effect that future water-level declines may have on pumps and wells. Water-level data were compared with pump-setting depth to determine the hydraulic head above the current pump setting. Additionally, geophysical logs were examined to address changes in well productivity with water-level declines. Furthermore, hydrologic factors that affect water levels in different areas of the INL were evaluated to help understand why water-level changes occur.

Review of pump intake placement and 2014 water-level data indicates that 40 wells completed within the ESRP aquifer at the INL have 20 feet (ft) or less of head above the pump. Nine of the these wells are located in the northeastern and northwestern areas of the INL where recharge is predominantly affected by irrigation, wet and dry cycles of precipitation, and flow in the Big Lost River. Water levels in northeastern and northwestern wells generally show water-level fluctuations of as much as 4.5 ft seasonally and show declines as much as 25 ft during the past 14 years.

In the southeastern area of the INL, seven wells were identified as having less than 20 ft of water remaining above the pump. Most of the wells in the southeast show less decline over the period of record compared with wells in the northeast; the smaller declines are probably attributable to less groundwater withdrawal from pumping of wells for irrigation. In addition, most of the southeastern wells show only about a 1–2 ft fluctuation seasonally because they are less influenced by groundwater withdrawals for irrigation.

In the southwestern area of the INL, 24 wells were identified as having less than 20 ft of water remaining above the pump. Wells in the southwest also only show small 1–2 ft fluctuations seasonally because of a lack of irrigation influence. Wells show larger fluctuation in water levels closer to the Big Lost River and fluctuate in response to wet and dry cycles of recharge to the Big Lost River.

Geophysical logs indicate that most of the wells evaluated will maintain their current production until the water level declines to the depth of the pump. A few of the wells may become less productive once the water level gets to within about 5 ft from the top of the pump. Wells most susceptible to future drought cycles are those in the northeastern and northwestern areas of the INL.

First posted June 26, 2015

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

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). For best results viewing and printing PDF documents, it is recommended that you download the documents to your computer and open them with Adobe Reader. PDF documents opened from your browser may not display or print as intended. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge. More information about viewing, downloading, and printing report files can be found here.

Suggested citation:

Bartholomay, R.C., and Twining, B.V., 2015, Hydrologic influences on water-level changes in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer at and near the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 1949–2014: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5085 (DOE/ID-22236), 36 p.,

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)





Results and Discussion

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix A. Geophysical Logs and Construction Information for Selected Wells at the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Page Last Modified: Friday, June 26, 2015, 03:34:53 PM