Officials: Aquifer not big enough for two cities

Officials: Aquifer not big enough for two cities


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Posted 09 September 2011, by, Northwest Cable News (NWCN) (Bello Corp.)),


SPOKANE — The Washington Department of Ecology is shutting down a $2 million well owned by the city of Airway Heights.  That is because it is sucking too much water out of the aquifer.  Now demand for water on the West Plains is not keeping up with supply.

Two big wells sit one quarter of a mile apart.  One feeds Medical Lake.  The other, Airway Heights.  Officials said both wells are pumping from the same underground water supply which is creating a problem.

“The combined pumping of those two big municipal wells is taking its toll on the aquifer.  Water levels are dropping 10 to 20 feet a year.  And that is not sustainable,” said Department of Ecology Water Resources Program Manager Keith Stoffel.

Homeowners in the area experienced this first-hand several years ago.  Richard Johnson said all of a sudden he had no water.  His well went dry.  He said his neighbor’s water disappeared as well in the next couple weeks.

“It’s not a good feeling.  You can’t take showers, you can’t wash your dishes, and you can’t wash your hands.  You can only flush the toilet once, and then it don’t fill up no more,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the city of Airway Heights dug him and at least six other homeowners a deeper well.  Since then, Johnson said there have not been any problems.

But Department of Ecology officials said that will not last if Airway Heights does not stop pumping from its Parkwest well and tap into a more sustainable water supply.

“There is no recharge in this area.  If you look around, where the water that gets into the aquifer at this location is only what falls on the ground in snow or rain,“ said Stoffel.

Medical Lake built its pumping station before Airway Heights.  The city has first rights to the water.  The Department of Ecology has given Airways Heights until July 2013 to find a new source farther north.  There is also a long-term option which is tapping into Spokane’s water line that already runs into Fairchild Air Force Base.

The Department of Ecology said 2011 was a wet year.  They did not see as much of a drop in the water table.  They said shutting down one well, until the aquifer recharges, should help the supply.



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