Characterizing the Water Resources of the Big Lost River Valley

Science Center Objects

In cooperation with the Idaho Department of Water Resources, we are working to improve the scientific understanding of the Big Lost River basin's water resources. This improved understanding will support effective resource management. 

In September 2016, the Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) was petitioned to designate a Critical Ground Water Area in the Big Lost River Valley. In the petition, a group of water users expressed concerns about declining groundwater levels, declining streamflow in the Big Lost River, and drought. The last comprehensive study of the water resources for the Big Lost River drainage basin was conducted by the USGS almost 50 years ago. An updated characterization of water resources will improve hydrologic understanding of the valley and aid IDWR in making management decisions regarding the valley.

The study objectives are to:

  • Support groundwater well installation and monitoring to refine Big Lost River Valley underflow estimates which feed into Eastern Snake River Plain water models;
  • Develop a hydrogeologic framework and water budget for the Big Lost River basin; and
  • Provide streamgage data to facilitate the development of an improved water-right accounting model for the Big Lost River basin.

To achieve these objectives, we have installed new streamgage stations in the basin to provide real-time streamflow data. We are conducting periodic seepage studies to better understand the interaction of surface water and groundwater. And we are collecting geophysical data from selected wells in the valley to better describe the valley's aquifer system.

Geophysical logging of a well in the Big Lost River Valley, Idaho

USGS hydrologist Brian Twining inserts a geophysical logging tool into a well in the Big Lost River Valley, southeastern Idaho. Geophysical log data from the well are being used to improve the scientific understanding of the valley's aquifer system.

(Credit: Lauren Zinsser, Idaho Water Science Center. Public domain.)