National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) in the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins


Federally funded by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Status: Complete

Principal Investigator: Greg Clark

Issue

Resource managers have identified mining, forestry, agricultural-related activities, and the treatment of municipal and industrial wastes as possible water contamination sources. However, the effects of land-use and water-use practices on many rivers and groundwater resources remain a priority concern to resource managers, planners, State and local governments, and citizen groups.

How the USGS Helps

Surface Water

We assessed stream chemistry by evaluating how water quality of rivers and lakes varies in response to land use in different seasons and under different hydrologic conditions. This was accomplished by monitoring a set of basic- and intensive-fixed sites.

Basic-fixed sites were sampled for nutrients, major ions, trace metals, and suspended sediment on a regular basis.

The intensive-fixed sites were sampled for the same constituents as the basic fixed sites with the addition of pesticides and volatile organic compounds during selected time periods.

Groundwater

We assessed groundwater quality of the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie aquifer and the Missoula aquifer. These aquifers are the principal sources of drinking water in their areas and are highly susceptible to contamination.

All wells were sampled for analysis of nutrients, major ions, trace metals, pesticides, VOCs, and radon. Selected wells were also sampled for stable and radioactive isotopes.

Groundwater/surface water interaction was also studied along the Spokane River in Idaho and Washington to examine the effects of recharge from the Spokane River on the hydrologic and chemical characteristics of the adjacent alluvial aquifer.

Aquatic Biology

We studied the effects of land use on stream ecology, especially as evidenced in fish tissue, fish communities, streambed sediment, and aquatic organisms.

Fish tissue and streambed sediment samples were collected at all fixed sites and at additional stream sites for a basin-wide assessment of trace elements and organic compounds. In the Spokane and St. Regis River Basins we evaluated the effects of mining and contamination on aquatic biology.

Key Findings

For complete findings and analysis, please see our list of products below.

Products

Beckwith, M.A., 2002,Selected trace-element and synthetic-organic compound data for streambed sediment from the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille and Spokane River basins, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, 1998: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-336.

Beckwith, M.A., 2002, Summary of Surface-water-quality data collected for the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins National Water-Quality Assessment Program in the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille and Spokane River basins, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, Water Years 1999-2001: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-472.

Bowers, C.L. Caldwell, R.R., and Dutton, D.M., 2003, Water-quality, streambed-sediment, and biological data from the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille and Spokane River basins, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, 1998-2001: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-292.

Caldwell, R.R., and Bowers, C.L. Bowers, 2003, Surface-water/ground-water interaction of the Spokane River and the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie aquifer, Idaho and Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4239.

Clark, G.M., 2002, Occurrence and transport of cadmium, lead, and zinc in the Spokane River basin, Idaho and Washington, Water Years 1999-2001: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4183.

Clark, G.M., Caldwell, R.R., Maret, T.R., Bowers, C.L., Dutton, D.M., and Beckwith, M.A., 2003, Water quality in the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins, Idaho, Montana, and Washington, 1999–2001: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1235.

MacCoy, D.E., 2001, PCBs in tissue of fish from the Spokane River, Washington, 1999: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 067-01.

Maret, T.R., 1998, Ecological components of the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins National Water-Quality Assessment Program: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Northwest Biological Assessment Workshop (Abstract), Nov. 4-6, 1998, Eagle Creek, Oregon.

Maret, T.R., Cain, D.J., MacCoy, D.E., and Short, T.M., 2003, "Response of benthic invertebrate assemblages to metal exposure and bioaccumulation associated with hard-rock mining in northwestern streams, USA": Journal of the North American Benthological Society 22:4, 598-620.

Maret, T.R., and Dutton, D.M., 1998, Summary of information on synthetic organic compounds and trace elements in tissue of aquatic biota, Clark Fork-Pend Oreille and Spokane River basins, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, 1974-96: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4254.

Maret, T.R., and MacCoy, D.E., 2002, Fish assemblages and environmental variables associated with hard-rock mining in the Coeur d' Alene River basin, Idaho: Transaction of the American Fisheries Society, 131:865-884.

Maret, T.R., and Skinner, K.D., 2000, Concentrations of selected trace elements in fish tissue and streambed in the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille and Spokane River basins, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1998: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 00-4159.

Mebane, C.A., Maret, T.R., and Hughes, R.M., 2003, "An index of biological integrity (IBI) for Pacific Northwest rivers": Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 132:239-261.

Tornes, L.H., 1997, Design of a water quality assessment for the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins: Inland Northwest Water Resources Conference Programs and Abstracts, April 28-29, 1997, Spokane, Washington.

Tornes, L.H., 1998, Design of a water quality assessment for the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins: Toward Ecosystem-Based Management in the Upper Columbia River Basin: An International Conference and Workshop; Conference/Workshop Program and Abstracts, April 27-30, 1998, Castlegar, British Columbia, 85-86.

To Learn More

Upper Snake River Basin NAWQA

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