U.S. Water News Online
MOSCOW, Idaho -- Even with conservation efforts taking
place on both sides of the state line, the Grande Ronde aquifer is
continuing to drop between 1 and 2 feet per year.
The aquifer is the only source of drinking water for 50,000 people
in Moscow and Pullman, Wash. Conditions have gotten so bad,
geologists have even proposed recharging the aquifer with surface
``The measures we've taken over the last dozen years have not
changed the rate of decline -- that's quite frustrating,'' said Larry
Kirkland, an Idaho member of the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee. ``I
think everybody's realizing now that we do have a serious problem.''
The water supply has been a concern in the Palouse Basin for
generations. Water levels in the Grande Ronde aquifer began falling
more than a century ago.
Scientists are unsure how much water continues to flow into the
Grande Ronde. Recharge estimates from the 1980s appear to be
overstated, committee members said, and pale in comparison with the
porous Rathdrum Prairie aquifer, where 250 million to 650 million
gallons of water arrive each day.
The shape and volume of the aquifer also remains unknown. But
scientists fear it could resemble a narrow bowl. If that is true,
even if water consumption levels off, the declines could increase as
the width of the aquifer decreases.
If the water levels don't stabilize, scientists are proposing
One idea is to artificially recharge the aquifer. Planners have
suggested diverting spring runoff from Paradise Creek, the Palouse
River and even treated wastewater to fill the aquifer.
Because that water would be injected directly into the Grande
Ronde by wells, bypassing the aquifer's natural filtering system, the
water would have to be treated to be drinkable. Officials said that
is a costly and somewhat risky alternative.
``This is not something you do or even contemplate casually,''
said Kent Keller, a hydrogeologist at Washington State University.
``There's potential for degrading the quality of water in what has
been a relatively pristine aquifer.''
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