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Numerical simulation of the groundwater-flow system of the Kitsap Peninsula, west-central Washington

May 5, 2016

A groundwater-flow model was developed to improve understanding of water resources on the Kitsap Peninsula. The Kitsap Peninsula is in the Puget Sound lowland of west-central Washington, is bounded by Puget Sound on the east and by Hood Canal on the west, and covers an area of about 575 square miles. The peninsula encompasses all of Kitsap County, Mason County north of Hood Canal, and part of Pierce County west of Puget Sound. The peninsula is surrounded by saltwater, and the hydrologic setting is similar to that of an island. The study area is underlain by a thick sequence of unconsolidated glacial and interglacial deposits that overlie sedimentary and volcanic bedrock units that crop out in the central part of the study area. Twelve hydrogeologic units consisting of aquifers, confining units, and an underlying bedrock unit form the basis of the groundwater-flow model.

Groundwater flow on the Kitsap Peninsula was simulated using the groundwater-flow model, MODFLOW‑NWT. The finite difference model grid comprises 536 rows, 362 columns, and 14 layers. Each model cell has a horizontal dimension of 500 by 500 feet, and the model contains a total of 1,227,772 active cells. Groundwater flow was simulated for transient conditions. Transient conditions were simulated for January 1985–December 2012 using annual stress periods for 1985–2004 and monthly stress periods for 2005–2012. During model calibration, variables were adjusted within probable ranges to minimize differences between measured and simulated groundwater levels and stream baseflows. As calibrated to transient conditions, the model has a standard deviation for heads and flows of 47.04 feet and 2.46 cubic feet per second, respectively.

Simulated inflow to the model area for the 2005–2012 period from precipitation and secondary recharge was 585,323 acre-feet per year (acre-ft/yr) (93 percent of total simulated inflow ignoring changes in storage), and simulated inflow from stream and lake leakage was 43,905 acre-ft/yr (7 percent of total simulated inflow). Simulated outflow from the model primarily was through discharge to streams, lakes, springs, seeps, and Puget Sound (594,595 acre-ft/yr; 95 percent of total simulated outflow excluding changes in storage) and through withdrawals from wells (30,761 acre-ft/yr; 5 percent of total simulated outflow excluding changes in storage).

Six scenarios were formulated with input from project stakeholders and were simulated using the calibrated model to provide representative examples of how the model could be used to evaluate the effects on water levels and stream baseflows of potential changes in groundwater withdrawals, in consumptive use, and in recharge. These included simulations of a steady-state system, no-pumping and return flows, 15-percent increase in current withdrawals in all wells, 80-percent decrease in outdoor water to simulate effects of conservation efforts, 15-percent decrease in recharge from precipitation to simulate a drought, and particle tracking to determine flow paths.

Changes in water-level altitudes and baseflow amounts vary depending on the stress applied to the system in these various scenarios. Reducing recharge by 15 percent between 2005 and 2012 had the largest effect, with water-level altitudes declining throughout the model domain and baseflow amounts decreasing by as much as 18 percent compared to baseline conditions. Changes in pumping volumes had a smaller effect on the model. Removing all pumping and resulting return flows caused increased water-level altitudes in many areas and increased baseflow amounts of between 1 and 3 percent.

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