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Ground water in the Eugene-Springfield area, southern Willamette Valley, Oregon

January 1, 1973

The cities of Eugene and Springfield and their outlying suburban and rural districts constitute an area of rapid population growth where progressively greater volumes of ground water are being required for irrigation and industrial and public supplies. The area is also one of diverse geologic and hydrologic conditions.

As used in this report, the Eugene-Springfield area covers about 450 square miles and includes a part of the lower foothills of the Coast and Cascade Ranges and a strip of the main valley plain of the southern Willamette Valley. Volcanic and sedimentary rock units exposed in the foothills range in age from Eocene to Miocene. In the main valley plain the older units are overlain by Pleistocene and Holocene alluvial deposits. Marine-deposited sandstone, siltstone, shale, and mudstone of the older sedimentary units are fine grained and poorly permeable and yield water slowly to wells. The volcanic rocks, primarily of dacitic and andesitic composition, yield small quantities of water that are generally adequate only for domestic use. The alluvial deposits (sand and gravel) of the valley plain (central lowland) contain the most productive aquifers in the area and are considered to be the only ground-water reservoir for which large-scale development of ground-water supplies is feasible.

Aquifers in the area are recharged principally by direct infiltration of precipitation. Most of the precipitation, which averages about 4C inches per year, occurs during late autumn and winter. Minimum recharge by infiltration of precipitation to the alluvial aquifers beneath the valley plain is estimated to be about 100,000 acre-feet. Ground water is discharged naturally from the central lowland by seepage and spring flow to small streams, by subsurface outflow to adjacent areas, and by evapotranspiration.

Storage capacity of the central lowland in the Eugene-Springfield area is estimated to be about 2.1 million acre-feet in the zone 10-150 feet below land surface. The quantity of ground water available annually from this area is far greater than the 23,000 acre-feet pumped for all uses in 1968. This pumpage was about 23 percent of the perennial yield (100,000 acre-ft), and about 77,000 acre-feet of water was left available for additional withdrawal. If annual withdrawals of water were increased to 100,000 acre-feet per year, the levels in the ground-water reservoir would be lowered. Once new equilibriums are established, increased withdrawals could be accommodated without progressive losses in aquifer storage or excessive losses in flow of the larger streams.

Ground water from the alluvial deposits of the valley plain is chemically suitable for irrigation and other uses, as is most of the water obtained from perched-water bodies in the sedimentary and volcanic rocks. However, the mineral content of water from the older sedimentary rocks, particularly from deeper producing zones, is greater than the mineral content of water from the alluvial deposits. Locally, some of the water from the older rocks is too saline for most uses.

Increased use of ground water may result in certain problems pertaining to waste-disposal practices, local overdraft of aquifers, well interference, and well construction. Present data are adequate to evaluate some of the factors relating to foreseeable problems but allow only tentative conclusions to be drawn about other factors, which include local direction of flow, rate of ground-water movement, and areas of possible ground-water contamination. Additional information obtained through systematic study will be needed to deal with these problems.

Publication Year 1973
Title Ground water in the Eugene-Springfield area, southern Willamette Valley, Oregon
DOI 10.3133/wsp2018
Authors F. J. Frank
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water Supply Paper
Series Number 2018
Index ID wsp2018
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Oregon Water Science Center