Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Victoria Fowler
Gazette Reporter 

Palouse aquifer water usage down


October 17, 2019

Various county water projects are presented for Palouse Basin Water Summit attendees.

Changes, both positive and negative, are continuing in water use and conservation as 2018 water reports were presented at the 16th annual Palouse Basin Water Summit Oct. 10 in Pullman.

The Palouse groundwater basin provides the sole drinking water supply for more than 60,000 residents in Whitman and Latah counties.

For 2018, the total combined groundwater pumped, according to reporting pumping entities within the basin, was 2.37 billion gallons.

"This last year, 2018, is the second lowest year in combined groundwater pumping since 1992," said Korey Woodley, Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee executive manager.

According to the Palouse Basin Aquifer committee, water is declining in the aquifers and not reentering at the same rate as water is being pumped out.

For the areas of Pullman, Moscow, WSU, UI and Palouse, in 2018, pumped approximately 3.1 percent, less than in 2017.

Since the start of the Ground Water Management Plan in 1992, pumped water has gone down 13.6 percent in those five areas.

Within the basin, there are two major aquifers, the Wanapum, the upper aquifer, and the Grande Ronde, the lower aquifer.

Along with findings from 2018, the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee is conducting a survey in the area to see what those in the region think about Palouse water alternatives.

Surveys were conducted at the Palouse Empire Fair, Latah County Fair, other various locations in Pullman and Moscow and internet surveys.

Of those surveyed, 22 percent get their water from a personal well for drinking, 18 percent get water from the Pullman Water Department and nine percent have a personal well for irrigation.

Awareness of the issue on water isn't as well known to those surveyed with 12 percent saying they know a lot on the subject while 30 percent know very little.

Alex Maas, University of Idaho College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said that more than 50 percent of those surveyed want action now for this issue.

The survey isn't yet completed, but the final report should be out by the beginning of next year.

"Generally speaking the awareness is pretty low, but people know this is an important issue," Maas said.


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