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Timing and source of recharge to the Columbia River Basalt groundwater system in northeastern Oregon

March 30, 2024

Recharge to and flow within the Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG) groundwater flow system of northeastern Oregon were characterized using isotopic, gas, and age-tracer samples from wells completed in basalt, springs, and stream base flow. Most groundwater samples were late-Pleistocene to early-Holocene; median age of well samples was 11,100 years. The relation between mean groundwater age and completed well depth across the eastern portion of the study area was similar despite differences in precipitation, topographic position, incision, thickness of the sedimentary overburden, and CRBG geologic unit. However, the lateral continuity in groundwater age was disrupted across large regional fault zones indicating these structures are substantial impediments to groundwater flow from the high-precipitation uplands to adjacent lower-precipitation and lower-elevation portions of the study area. Recharge rates calculated from the age-depth relations were <3 mm/yr and independent of the modern precipitation gradient across the study area. The age-constrained recharge rates to the CRBG groundwater system are considerably smaller than previously published estimates and highlight the uncertainty of prevailing models used to estimate recharge to the CRBG groundwater system across the Columbia Plateau in Oregon and Washington. Age tracer and isotopic evidence indicate recharge to the CRBG groundwater system is an exceedingly slow and localized process.

Publication Year 2024
Title Timing and source of recharge to the Columbia River Basalt groundwater system in northeastern Oregon
DOI 10.1111/gwat.13404
Authors Henry M. Johnson, Kate E. Ely, Anna-Turi Maher
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Groundwater
Index ID 70252668
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Oregon Water Science Center; Upper Midwest Water Science Center