June 27, 2012 | LXXII, No. 13

Region has mined its ground water for decades

All of us who live in the four Columbia Basin counties (Adams, Franklin, Grant and Lincoln) primarily rely on ground water for our drinking and water supply. The problem is our deep ground water is mostly ancient water, and we’ve been mining it for decades.

This is not sustainable, a point that will become more apparent when the municipalities in these four counties receive their “water supply and aquifer storage recharge assessment” reports at the end of this month. The Legislature asked the Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area (GWMA) to assess each city’s wells and water supply. A previous study of municipalities in the “Odessa Subarea” revealed wells have declined dramatically and will continue to do so at current pumping rates.

We know about ground water conditions because of the scientific studies and research conducted by the GWMA in the last decade. I served on a citizen’s advisory committee and the governing executive board for many years. The GWMA’s geologic mapping, ground water modeling and assessment work is the cornerstone of many important current and future water supply projects in the Basin, including a potential ground water model of the Quincy Basin that could allow water users to resolve water right disputes and adopt a sustainable water use program.

We have a responsibility to plan for the day when this deep ground water source is no longer available. The Board of County Commissioners are considering holding a public hearing on a ballot measure to fund the GWMA for the next decade through a small proposed annual assessment ($5 per parcel) and graduated fee on production wells, based on casing diameter. I encourage you to review the GWMA website http://www.cbgwma.org/ and video “Why are we losing our groundwater?” I hope you’ll agree they’re worth this modest investment.

Dale Wentworth

Ephrata

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