Expertise in large river research provides science information to inform decisions on river management and restoration in the Midwest Region. Connectivity is a fundamental concept in river ecology and refers to opportunities for water to flow along and through riverine ecosystems. It is considered one of the primary drivers of river productivity, biological diversity and ecosystem health.
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.
The system of drainage channels and natural stream channels in the Albuquerque metropolitan area is a source of concern because of potential local flooding and water-quality problems. Rapid urbanization since 1970 has increased precipitation runoff to these channels, which in many instances return flow to the Rio Grande. As an important element of the City of Albuquerque’s water-resources management, accurate hydrologic data are needed for designing storm drainage and addressing storm-water-quality regulations established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA) and the City of Albuquerque, in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, began a program in 1976 to collect hydrologic data to help assess the quality and quantity of surface-water resources and determine long-term trends in the Albuquerque area.
Rapid population growth in the Wood River Valley since the 1970s has caused concern about the long-term sustainability of the groundwater resource. Water-resource planners and managers, as well as other decision makers, need a tool for water rights administration and water-resource management and planning.
Microplastics in the environment are of increasing concern among resource managers and ecologists. With global production of plastic topping 300 million metric tons in 2015, research in fresh and marine waters throughout the world has implicated urban runoff, wastewater treatment effluent, and litter breakdown as major sources of microbeads and synthetic pieces and fibers that are slow to degrade and can make their way through the water column and into bed sediment. Studies of microplastic toxicity and bioavailability have shown microplastics can have similar effects as those from contaminants of emerging concern, including leaching of chemicals that comprise the plastic material or those that have sorbed during use or in the environment, but with added physical effects. Human health concerns related to toxicity of the particles, toxicity of chemicals associated with plastic particles, and the ability of particles to serve as a vector for pathogens have been suggested. The issue of microplastics in the environment has even become a talking point for the U.S. military with regard to effects on ecology and how society can reduce inputs to the waters.
Aquatic Systems Branch scientists analyze rings of riparian trees relating tree growth and establishment to historical flow. We then use the tree rings to reconstruct the flow in past centuries. Flow reconstructions discover the frequency and magnitude of past droughts and floods—information that is essential for management of rivers and water supplies. We also use downscaled climate projections and watershed models to predict changes in flow and tree growth resulting from human-induced climate change. We have pioneered the use of cottonwood, a dominant riparian species, for tree ring analysis; this is a significant advance in arid regions where old trees of other species are scarce. Ongoing studies focus on rivers of the Upper Missouri Basin and the Tarim River in China.
In 1992, the USGS began studying possible causes for the change in trophic status of Upper Klamath Lake. Since then research has expanded to include groundwater, geomorphology, streamflow forecasting, and fish ecology.
To meet National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements, the City of Boise will be responsible for collecting fish tissue samples for mercury analysis upstream of and downstream of their wastewater treatment facilities discharging to the lower Boise and Snake Rivers.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that ultimately makes its way into aquatic ecosystems through the hydrologic cycle. Certain forms of mercury may be toxic to both aquatic life and to humans at elevated concentrations. Mercury in water enters the food chain through a natural process called methylation. In the right environments, methylmercury can accumulate in fish tissue and poses a risk to humans when we eat the contaminated fish.
in partnership with the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) and Idaho Water Resource Board (IWRB), we will construct a numerical groundwater-flow model of the Treasure Valley and surrounding area. Resource managers will use the model to simulate potential anthropogenic and climatic effects on groundwater for water-supply planning and management. As part of model construction, the hydrogeologic understanding of the aquifer system will be updated with information collected during the last two decades, as well as new data collected for the study.