Scientists have developed a three-dimensional depiction of the geology of the Columbia Plateau that will aid water resource managers coping with declining ground water levels, development and climate change in the region, according to a report published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
is a critical resource for the nearly 1.3 million people in the region, as well
as providing irrigation water for the region’s estimated $6 billion-per-year
agriculture. A recent USGS study showed that ground water levels of the
Columbia Plateau have declined over the past 25 years in about 80 percent of
the nearly 500 wells measured in the study.
resource managers in the region, in 2007, the USGS Groundwater Resources
Program began a study of the Columbia Plateau Regional Aquifer System to answer
key questions about widespread water-level declines, reductions in ground water
flow into rivers, and the as-yet unknown effects of a changing climate on
ground water resources.
As part of
the study, USGS scientists built a three-dimensional geologic model – a
computer model of geologic units – to define the overall aquifer system in the
Columbia Plateau, to be used in a regional numerical model of ground water
flow. The geologic model covers about 53,000 square miles of the Columbia
Plateau in Washington, Oregon,
geologic model of the Columbia Plateau gives us a more complete picture of the
shape and volume of the regional aquifer system," says Erick Burns, a USGS
scientist working on the study. "This information will be used to build a
ground water flow model to help water resource managers who are working on the
issue of declining ground water levels in the region, and coping with changing
development and climate conditions."
to defining the geology of the aquifer system, USGS scientists also are
documenting hydrologic changes and developing a water budget for the system.
This information will help scientists build a ground water-flow simulation
model that managers can use to test ways of managing the region’s ground water
under different development and climate conditions.
and related ground water availability studies are being conducted nationally by
the USGS through the Groundwater Resources Program. Information
about the Groundwater Resources Program is available on-line at the USGS Web
3-D Geologic Model Defines Columbia Plateau Aquifers
March 31, 2011