Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019ID084B

Assessing the risk of emerging contaminants in managed aquifer recharge in Idaho’s Eastern Snake River Plain

Institute: Idaho
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-05-31 End Date: 2020-05-30
Total Federal Funds: $14,991 Total Non-Federal Funds: $29,980

Principal Investigators: Sarah Godsey

Abstract: Idaho has become a national leader in managed aquifer recharge after recognizing that groundwater and surface water should be jointly managed. The State of Idaho spends up to $10M/year to promote managed aquifer recharge to help buffer needs of water users during drought years. Those users include fish farmers that rely heavily on spring discharge fed by groundwater discharging at Thousand Springs and account ~75% of farm-raised trout in the United States. One of the most common means by which managed aquifer recharge is occurring is through winter flooding of irrigation canals in heavily agricultural portions of the state. These waters are regularly tested for contaminants to ensure that the Eastern Snake River Plain (ESRP) aquifer is not being contaminated by increased recharge efforts. However, these tests do not include emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Previous studies have shown that juvenile fish that are exposed to low levels of PPCPs shift both their genetic expression and behavior compared to those who are not. Thus, because ultimately the managed recharge water flows directly into a large nursery area for juvenile fish, it is critical to know whether PPCPs are entering the ESRP aquifer through managed recharge efforts. To address this critical challenge, this proposal has the following objectives: 1) to assess the current spatial and temporal variability in PPCP concentrations in recharge waters, and 2) to assess the current PPCP concentrations in discharge water near the fisheries in the Thousand Springs area. These objectives will be addressed by engaging with the IDWR technical crew who are already sampling recharge waters around the state. They have agreed to allow us to join them to take additional samples according to our PPCP protocol, which we will analyze and assess to determine the risks associated with emerging contaminants in the ESRP. I propose to supervise an Idaho State University graduate student who will integrate this work with recent efforts to assess emerging contaminant risks in the Lower Portneuf River Valley, and we will present our results as a report and presentation to the IWRRI community as well as a larger academic conference. The long-term goal will be to collect seed data that can serve a larger effort to understand the potential impact of emerging contaminants on Idaho’s aquaculture, agriculture, and growing communities.