Washington Water Science Center

Water Quality

WAWSC water quality activities provide a better understanding of water-quality conditions in WA and help predict potential changes and risks associated with observed water-quality conditions. These activities include identifying whether the abundance of aquatics contaminants and the exposure to them are getting better or worse over time; and how natural features and human activities affect those conditions. We also provide information and tools that assist facility managers develop strategies to control the release of hazardous chemicals into the environment, and to more effectively mitigate damages caused by past discharges. Tools developed by the WAWSC include predictive models, flow path models, and mass balance models that can be utilized by resource managers to more effectively evaluate the sources, fate, and transport of dispersed groundwater and surface water contamination in drinking water supplies and in aquatic ecosystems.

Filter Total Items: 45
Date published: April 17, 2018
Status: Active

Sumas River Sediment Load

The Issue: A large, clay-rich active landslide on the western flank of Sumas Mountain in Whatcom County, Washington, is a significant source of sediment to Swift Creek and the salmon-bearing Sumas River. The landslide contains naturally occurring serpentinite that weathers to chrysotile asbestos and elevated levels of metals. The asbestos load in water as well as deposits along the banks and...

Date published: April 17, 2018
Status: Active

Elwha River Sediment Monitoring

The Issue: The Elwha River Restoration Project is the largest single restoration action planned for the Puget Sound region in the foreseeable future and is a high priority for the Puget Sound Partnership. Beginning in 2011, two large dams on the Elwha River in Clallam County, Washington, will be removed by the National Park Service over about two and a half years. During removal, sediment...

Date published: March 5, 2018
Status: Active

Keyport Groundwater Model

The Issue: Chlorinated volatile organic compounds have impacted groundwater beneath a former 9-acre landfill at OU 1 of the Naval Base Kitsap Keyport, Washington.  The landfill is adjacent to tidal flats that are an extension of Liberty and Dogfish Bays and was the primary disposal area for domestic and industrial waste generated by NBK Keyport from the 1930s through 1973....

Contacts: Andrew J Long
Date published: February 20, 2018
Status: Active

Central Columbia Plateau - Yakima River Basin

The Central Columbia Plateau/Yakima River Basin (CCYK) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) study unit is located in Central Washington, USA. The study unit is dominated by intensive agricultural practices, with irrigated agriculture a common practice for crop production (see study area description). Due to the intensive...

Contacts: Robert W Black
Date published: February 16, 2018
Status: Active


Located on 586 square miles in southeastern Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy's (USDOE) Hanford Site was established during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. As a result of plutonium processing and operation of nine nuclear reactors, large volumes of liquid wastes have been generated and discharged to the ground.

The USDOE...

Date published: February 14, 2018
Status: Active

Puget Sound Basin NAWQA

The Puget Sound Basin (PUGT) study unit of the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program encompasses a 13,700-square-mile area that drains to Puget Sound and adjacent marine waters. Included in this region are all or part of 13 counties in western Washington, as well as the headwaters of the Skagit River and part of the Nooksack River in British Columbia, Canada. The Puget Sound Basin...

Contacts: Robert W Black
Date published: January 25, 2018
Status: Active

Stillaguamish Emerging Contaminants

Emerging contaminants are a group of chemical compounds that generally include pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, surfactants, industrial and household chemicals, and food additives. Their presence in the environment is typically associated with discharges from wastewater treatment-plants (WWTP), on-site septic systems, and some animal production operations. They are of particular...

Contacts: Patrick W Moran
Date published: December 20, 2017
Status: Active

Navy Investigations and Technical Oversight

The U.S. Navy is conducting environmental work at various sites on Navy installations in Washington, Alaska, and other northwestern states under mandates of the CERCLA and RCRA environmental regulations. This work is generally performed by private firms under contract to the Navy, commonly focusing on small areas near specific waste-disposal or spill sites.

To assist the Navy with the...

Date published: December 20, 2017
Status: Active

Yakima Nitrates

The Issue: Links between nitrate application to the land surface and measured nitrate concentrations in groundwater or surface water are poorly understood in the Yakima River basin due to the variety of potential nitrate sources. Fertilizer-intensive irrigated agriculture has been prevalent in the basin for decades, and since 1994 the growth of dairy operations has resulted in numerous liquid-...

Date published: January 26, 2017
Status: Active

Uranium in Groundwater

The Issue: Recent groundwater monitoring in northeastern Washington has shown elevated levels of uranium in several community water systems and in private wells. Naturally occurring uranium is associated with granitic and metasedimentary rocks, as well as younger sedimentary deposits, that occur in northeastern Washington. The occurrence and distribution of uranium in...

Contacts: Sue Kahle
Date published: January 5, 2017
Status: Completed

NCCN Critical Loads

Nutrients such as nitrogen are essential for plant and animal growth and nourishment, but overabundance can cause adverse effects. Excess amounts of nitrogen from the atmosphere can cause a lake to go through eutrophication, the process in which excess nitrogen triggers a series of events that cause a lake to become fatally low in dissolved oxygen. Alpine lakes are especially sensitive to...

Contacts: Rich Sheibley
Date published: January 1, 2017
Status: Completed

River Loads into Puget Sound

The Issue: Puget Sound, WA, is the second largest estuary in the United States and its unique geology, climate, and nutrient-rich waters sustain biologically-productive terrestrial, coastal, and marine habitats. Development and associated human activities have significantly degraded the Sound, causing declines in fish and wildlife populations, water-quality issues, and losses...

Contacts: Kathy Conn