Idaho Water Science Center
Relatively little is known about the Yellowstone-Snake River "hotspot" system. To increase our knowledge, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Program provided over $4.5 million of this $6.7 million project using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
The U.S. Department of Energy has proposed a location for a new facility to store waste at the INL. In the unlikely event that waste leaks from the facility, it will be important to monitor whether the contamination reaches the aquifer and baseline information is need before the facility is built.
Because we need to know how water and contaminants may travel through the aquifer, we need to gather geophysical, hydraulic property, and water-quality information about the subsurface.
As part of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, it is important to evaluate the effect of Naval Reactors Facility (NRF) activities on the water quality of the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer.
Geochemical models for the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer system are being used to better understand the flow of groundwater beneath the INL and, ultimately, to better understand the fate and transport of radiochemical and chemical constituents. As water moves through the ground, it picks up chemicals from the gases and rocks it comes in contact with.
Numerical models are being used to better understand the flow of groundwater and the transport of radiochemical and chemical constituents in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer system.
The models, developed at the INL, afford scientists a framework to organize their knowledge and concepts of groundwater systems and to provide insights for water-resource managers for future water demands and contaminant movement in the aquifer at the INL.
As basaltic lava cools and hardens, the inclination, declination, and polarity of the Earth’s ambient magnetic field is recorded in the magnetic minerals of the rock. The recorded magnetic values are largely preserved and can be deciphered by paleomagnetic analysis.
Drillers use the vertical and horizontal views captured by our downhole video camera to examine borehole integrity before placing water well casing, well screens, and submersible pumps. Hydrologists and geologists use the images to verify geophysical data such as: changes in rock type, small-scale geologic structures, rock fractures, and groundwater movement.
Our scientists collect geophysical data from wells to understand the character of rocks and fluids below the surface. Geophysical data for a well are recorded, interpreted, and then disseminated as a geophysical log. Engineers and well drillers use geophysical logs to make well construction decisions such as design for well casing, well screen, and pump placement. Hydrologists, geologists and others use geophysical logs to find solutions to problems in groundwater hydrology.
We drill and maintain wells around the INL to monitor and sample groundwater, obtain basalt and sediment cores for study and analysis, and study the physical properties of the subsurface (geophysical logging).
This information helps us to improve the scientific understanding of the eastern Snake River Plain and its aquifer. In particular, we are examining the subsidence of the plain and the movement of groundwater and contaminants within the aquifer.
In cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, we monitor groundwater and surface-water quality as well as streamflow and reserovir levels at eight surface water sites. Stage information at Mackay Reservoir is also available through other funding partners.
Water samples are collected and analyzed for selected common ions, trace elements, nutrients, radiochemical constituents, and organic compounds. Samples are analyzed by the Radiological and Environmental Sciences Laboratory and the USGS National Water Quality Laboratory.
Since 1966, we've archived "raw" samples from each of our groundwater and surface water monitoring events. These samples are available to researchers.
Since 1966, we have archived over 6000 samples of about 500 mL each of "raw" (unfiltered and unpreserved) water from groundwater and surface-water quality sites collected during our monitoring activities. Through the years, we've kept the water samples in a secure room and tracked which samples researchers have requested and analyzed for various projects.
Contact us for more information about the availability of water samples for research.
Our Core Storage Library currently houses about 135,000 feet of core and several suites of cuttings from boreholes drilled at the INL. More cores and cuttings are added every year. The CSL also houses two suites of core and cuttings from the western Snake River Plain. In 2015, we added new core storage space in building CF 674.