Impacts of Resource Development on Native American Lands
Integrating Research and Education > Impacts on Native Lands > Nez Perce > Hydrology and Water Resources

Hydrology of the Nez Perce Reservation

This case study was written by Joshua Kryston, a lower division undergraduate student who is not an earth science major, as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education. The pages in this case study reflect the personal views of the student author and not of MSU, SERC or the NSF.
An aerial view of the Snake River Canyon, Idaho Details

Surface Water

The Clearwater Plateau is a hydrologic sub-basin of the greater Columbia River Basin. Defining the Sub-basin are four watersheds drained by the four major rivers on the Plateau: the Clearwater, drained by the Clearwater River; the South Fork Clearwater, drained by the South and Main Forks of the Clearwater River; the Lower Salmon, drained by the Salmon River; the Lower Snake Tucannon, drained by the Snake River. The Sub-basin's largest watershed is the Clearwater, which drains nearly 60 percent of the Sub-basin's runoff. Recharging the drainage systems are small streams and creeks of higher topographic relief, and surface runoff through alluvial deposits.

relief map showing the watershed boundaries of the Clearwater Plateau Sub-basin

Ground Water

The ground water systems within the Clearwater Sub-area occur in both regional and local flow systems, under confined and unconfined conditions. The Columbia River Basalt aquifers are by far the most significant source of ground water in the Sub-area. Other locally important sources of water are found in the highly productive, but limited, alluvial valley aquifers, and the widespread but low yield older basement rocks. The major water producing zones within the basalt occur in the sedimentary interbeds, through the porous rubble zones at the bottom and top of basalt flows, and in fractures.


Lochsa River, Nez Perce National Forest, ID. Details

Water Resources

Water plays the most important role in sustaining life on Earth. The nature of water puts it above all natural resources, however because water is such a necessary part of everyday life, it is often neglected and abused.

Being that the Nez Perce Reservation and surrounding areas are major agricultural regions, its water is an invaluable resource. In order to maintain agricultural productivity, utilization of the water resources for irrigation is necessary. Water also is utilized as a resource for hydroelectricity, recreation, drinking, and sustenance of bio/eco habitats. The Plateau's climate however limits recharge of the available ground and surface water systems. This poses a distribution and utilization problem, requiring proper management.


To further investigate the hydrology and water resources of the Nez Perce Reservation, follow the links below.

Hydrology and Water Resources for the Nez Perce Reservation

Resources containing information about the hydrology and water resources of the Nez Perce Reservation.



For ideas on how to use these webpages in a classroom, a Study Guide is provided.




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