Bi-State Aquifer Study Released
The long awaited Bi-State Aquifer Study has finally arrived. The 4 year, $3.5 million study of the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer was finally released on May 8th at a conference in Spokane Valley. The study, intended to provide the most detailed look at the mechanics and hydrology of the aquifer, is intended to provide sound scientific information and a hydrologic model for decision makers and water use planners. Using information from the study and model, these planners and decision makers will ultimately work together to develop a comprehensive strategy for protecting and preserving the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.
There are several results of the study that are worth mentioning. The study has indicated that the connection between the aquifer and the Spokane River is much more intimate than previously thought. In several locations the boundary of the aquifer has been expanded to reflect the new understanding of the aquifer. With new technology, mapping of the bottom of the aquifer was possible and it is much thicker than previously though in several locations. There are many other results that can be read about in the study publications.
Of primary interest is the way that water is passed between the aquifer and the Spokane River. In Idaho, the Spokane River is perched high above the aquifer, meaning that water can easily move from the river into the aquifer. Once past Sullivan Road in Washington though, the roles are reversed and water flows out of the aquifer and feeds the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers.
While the level of water in the aquifer has remained relatively constant over the years, the report shows that when more water is pumped out of the aquifer for consumptive uses, less water is available to flow into the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers. As development and economic growth continue and demands on the aquifer increase, the residence of Spokane will need to consider the impacts that water withdrawals from the aquifer have on the Spokane River.
One way that everyone can help to ensure that enough water stays in the aquifer to provide water for human uses and to provide water for the Spokane River is to play an active role in water conservation. There are many ways that you can reduce the amount of water you use. The following are a few simple examples of how you can reduce your water consumption and actually save money each month on your water bill.
• Only water in the evenings. Water is less likely to evaporate and will sink into the ground where plant roots can use it.
• Installing a drip irrigation system that delivers water directly to the base of plants, instead of watering large patches of bare ground.
• When landscaping your yard, consider setting aside a portion of your yard for xeriscaping with native plants. These plants typically require little water and provide a great habitat for native birds and other wildlife.
• Check for leaking water fixtures and pipes around your home. Leaky indoor and outdoor faucets can waste hundreds of gallons of water per month and leaking or broken pipes can waste thousands of gallons per month. By finding and repairing these leaks and broken pipes, you can save water and money.
While the aquifer study is a fantastic beginning to understanding the water below our feet, it is by no means the end. Over the next 10 to 20 years, scientists will continue to monitor water levels in the aquifer and do additional studies in locations over the aquifer where not enough data was available. They will then use this new information to modify the model to better understand the aquifer and provide more information to decision makers.
The Washington Department of Ecology, Idaho Department of Water Resources and the United States Geological Survey have provided websites with detailed information and data used in the Bi-State Aquifer Study. We highly encourage you to check those sites out for more detailed information