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Rick Dinicola,
Associate Director, WA Water Science Center,
934 Broadway,
Suite 300
Tacoma, WA 98402

(253) 552-1603
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Walla Walla GW Nitrates

Project Summaries

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WA240 - Evaluation of the Areal, Vertical, and Temporal Distribution of Nitrate and Other Related Nitrogen Species in the Unconsolidated Deposits Near Burbank, Western Walla Walla County - Completed FY1981

Problem - As a result of tests of public-water systems in western Walla Walla County, County officials are alarmed at the previously unsuspected concentrations of dissolved nitrate-nitrogen which approach or exceed the EPA recommended limit of 10 mg/L. Several sources of the nitrate in the ground water are suspected; crop fertilization, septic tanks, local feed lots, and a waterfowl refuge. In July 1979, recommendation of the County Health Office and the State Department of Social and Health Services and Ecology, the County Board of Health amended the on-site sewage-disposal regulations to limit future installation of septic tanks to lots 5 acres in size, or greater. To continue a program of investigation of the GW the County has requested the U.S. Geological Survey to quantify the problem to help various alternative solutions.

Objectives - To define the areal, vertical, and temporal variations in nitrate and other related nitrogen species in the unconsolidated deposits near Burbank, western Walla Walla County. In addition, an attempt will be made to rank probable nitrate sources in terms of contribution to the ground water.

Approach -

  1. Define the ground-water flow;
  2. Define the areal, vertical, and temporal distribution of nitrate, related nitrogen species, and nitrogen isotopes;
  3. Identify surface nitrogen sources by preparing a land-use map of the study area;
  4. Calculate for each identified source area the amount of nitrogen loading to the unsaturated zone; and
  5. Attempt to identify and rank the sources of nitrate to the ground-water systems. It is hoped that nitrogen species and/or nitrogen isotopes will relate to a given source type, and through mapping the areal, vertical, and temporal distribution of these parameters, source area(s) for nitrogen in the ground-water system will be identified.

WA134 - Water Resources of the Walla Walla Basin - Completed FY1974

Problem - There is insufficient summer surface flow in the Walla Walla Basin to support the demand for water. A few storage sites are available of only fair potential. The demand for water is increasing through a recent upsurge in irrigation and agriculture-based industries. Wells are being drilled about as fast as the drillers can complete them and water-level declines have occurred. The State Department desires a thorough understanding of the system to formulate controls to prevent overdevelopment. Local pressure and acknowledgment by the State of a potential critical problem area places a high priority on a rapid definition of the system and potential management approaches.

Objectives - Primary: (1) To produce a digital model that will reasonably simulate the response of the aquifer systems in the Walla Walla Basin. (2) To develop a water budget for the basin. Secondary: (1) To update all historical data onto machine cards and enter all such data into the National data bank.

Approach - To collect all data necessary to adequately define the hydrologic conditions characterizing each aquifer system (basalt aquifer and gravel aquifer). Determine the response of the aquifers to known pumping conditions by periodic water level measurements. Determine the amount and distribution of water in the basin from presently available sources and information developed on the ground water system.

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