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: 49
Date published: May 14, 2021
Status: Active

Nooksack river basin continuous nitrate monitoring

The issue: Learning more about where and how much nitrates there are in the Nooksack river

How USGS will help: Provide continuous nitrate concentration data at three locations. Provide validation
water samples analyzing for nitrate concentration. Compute nitrate load estimates
using stream discharge data coupled with newly...

Date published: December 1, 2020
Status: Active

Assessment of Sediment Quality and Volume behind Enloe Dam

The Issue:

The Enloe Dam, a 100-yr old structure on the Similkameen River in Washington State, has not produced hydropower since 1958 and options are being considered for potential removal of the dam. The concentrations of sediment contaminants (primarily trace elements from a long history of mining and smelting operations in the US and Canada) trapped by Enloe Dam are...

Date published: April 20, 2020
Status: Active

Water Temperature Mapping in the Snoqualmie and Skykomish River Basins

Over the past two decades water temperatures in the Snoqualmie and Skykomish River basins has frequently exceeded temperature criteria established to protect Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout. These rivers combine in Monroe, WA to form the Snohomish River, the second largest producer of Chinook salmon in Puget Sound. The effects of high water...

Date published: April 8, 2020
Status: Completed

Hydrochemical Analysis of Groundwater in Jewel Cave National Monument

The Issue: The park’s landscape and geomorphology is characterized as a carbonate karst environment, with sinking streams and fast connections between surface water and groundwater, resulting in high vulnerability of contamination to groundwater. Now that subterranean lakes have been discovered in Jewel Cave, understanding the groundwater connection of the lakes therein to the...

Contacts: Andrew J Long
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 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...