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Estimates of ground-water recharge to the Yakima River Basin aquifer system, Washington, for predevelopment and current land-use and land-cover conditions

February 24, 2007

Two models were used to estimate ground-water recharge to the Yakima River Basin aquifer system, Washington for predevelopment (estimate of natural conditions) and current (a multi-year, 1995-2004, composite) land-use and land-cover conditions. The models were the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System (PRMS) and the Deep Percolation Model (DPM) that are contained in the U.S. Geological Survey's Modular Modeling System. Daily values of recharge were estimated for water years 1950-98 using previously developed PRMS-watershed models for four mainly forested upland areas, and for water years 1950-2003 using DPM applied to 17 semiarid to arid areas in the basin. The mean annual recharge under predevelopment conditions was estimated to be about 11.9 in. or 5,450 ft3/s (about 3.9 million acre-ft) for the 6,207 mi2 in the modeled area. In the modeled areas, recharge ranged from 0.08 in. (1.2 ft3/s) to 34 in. (2,825 ft3/s). About 97 percent of the recharge occurred in the 3,667 mi2 area included in the upland-area models, but much of this quantity is not available to recharge the bedrock hydrogeologic units. Only about 1.0 in., or 187 ft3/s (about 0.14 million acre-ft), was estimated to occur in the 2,540 mi2 area included in the semiarid to arid lowland modeled areas. The mean annual recharge to the aquifer system under current conditions was estimated to be about 15.6 in., or 7,149 ft3/s (about 5.2 million acre-ft). The increase in recharge is due to the application of irrigation water to croplands. The annual quantity of irrigation was more than five times the annual precipitation for some of the modeled areas. Mean annual actual evapotranspiration was estimated to have increased from predevelopment conditions by more than 1,700 ft3/s (about 1.2 million acre-ft) due to irrigation.