Quinault Groundwater

Science Center Objects

The Issue: Located on the north coast of Washington within the Queets-Quinault Watershed, the Quinault Indian Nation's coastal communities rely on groundwater as their sole source of drinking water. Climate change can directly affect groundwater throughout the watershed, particularly worrisome in vulnerable coastal aquifers. The Quinault Indian Nation will be collecting groundwater data for baseline conditions and future monitoring.

How the USGS will help: To help the Quinault Indian Nation, the USGS will make a preliminary assessment of their groundwater resources, identify any gaps in data needed to fully describe the groundwater system, and establish a groundwater monitoring network.

Problem: The 325 mi2 Quinault Indian Reservation is located within the Queets-Quinault Watershed along the north coast of Washington State. The Reservation includes 23 miles of Pacific coastline and coastal communities of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN), including Taholah and Queets. Healthy groundwater supplies are vital to the wellbeing of the QIN as groundwater is the sole source of fresh drinking water on the Reservation, and is supplied from community or single-family wells. Climate change can directly affect groundwater throughout the watershed, and is particularly worrisome in vulnerable coastal aquifers. The impacts of climate change can include changing patterns in tides, sea level rise, drought and saltwater intrusion in coastal aquifers. The QIN is pursuing collection of groundwater data to obtain baseline data that will help with future efforts to monitor changing groundwater conditions and can be used to characterize the groundwater resources of the QIN.

Objective: Make a preliminary assessment of the groundwater resources on the Reservation based on available data and identify data gaps that would need to be addressed to fully characterize the groundwater system. Establish a groundwater monitoring network.

Relevance and Benefits: This study contributes to the goals of the USGS strategic science direction "Quantifying, Forecasting, and Securing Freshwater for America's Future," as identified and described in the Strategic Science Plan of the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey, 2007). The study addresses data needs associated with groundwater availability and sustainability, and surface-water quality and management, which are priority issues for both the USGS Water Mission Area and the USGS Washington Water Science Center. This study will provide the QIN information to assist in the development of a long-term management plan to meet the needs of future water demands of the QIN, while also working to protect and improve its natural resources.

Approach: Available groundwater data will be compiled and evaluated to plan for and conduct a field inventory of wells and springs on the Quinault Reservation. The data will include drillers' logs; information describing the areal extent, thickness, and lithologic composition of aquifers and aquitards, historical groundwater levels, and geologic maps; and available groundwater level and spring records. During the field inventory, wells and springs will be located, and depth to water in wells will be measured. Based on available wells, a monthly groundwater monitoring network will be established and QIN personnel will be trained to maintain the groundwater network. Data gaps will be identified that would help with the eventual characterization of the hydrogeologic framework of the groundwater system on the reservation.