Palouse Basin Water – An Indispensable Resource

Sustainable Water Usage

Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee – A Dedicated Group Of Local Experts

Water is an indispensable resource, and those of us in the Palouse Basin are lucky to have access to some of the cleanest, purest water in the world, which is pumped from deep subterranean aquifers created during the end of the last Ice Age. Water usage and sustainability is an often-misunderstood topic, and we’re fortunate to have a dedicated group of local experts working to ensure we have plenty of water both for drinking and to drive industry.

The issue of sustainable water usage in the Palouse Basin has been in the public consciousness as early as 1897. Water in Pullman was initially sourced from natural artesian wells. The levels were so high at one point that a hotel was able to pipe the water to the second floor, providing running water on two floors, which was nearly unheard of at the time. Now, our region relies on two aquifers, the Wanapum is closest to the surface and the Grande Ronde is deepest. Water concerns were amplified in the 1950s when surface wells began to run dry and drilling in the deeper Grande Ronde basalt layer commenced. Water in these deeper wells is 10,000-20,000 years old, precipitation and runoff generally find their way to streams and rivers before they can seep that deep into the earth. With concerns over the long-term viability of pumping water from these deep aquifers, a committee of regional representatives was formed in 1967 to assess the rate at which groundwater levels are decreasing and create plans for sustainable water usage in the region.

The Mission – High-Quality, Long-Term Water Supply

The PBAC’s mission statement is

“To ensure a long-term, quality water supply for the Palouse Basin region.”

They maintain water level monitoring devices throughout the area and fund various research projects to understand water movement and needs, as well as possible alternatives to groundwater pumping.  Their plan includes public education and awareness, monitoring and analysis of water levels and usage, the exploration of supplemental sources of water, and review and recommendation of best practices with regard to water use and environmental impact. In 2016, pumping was reduced 12.5% when compared to the rate in 1992, even as population in the region has increased, so clearly, responsible water use is trending in the right direction.

Long-Term Solutions

While demands on the aquifer are diverse we pride ourselves in working together to achieve long-term water solutions.  We understand that our aquifer system is best situated for clean light industry and we have developed around this model.  More water-dependent industries have greater water access within 30 minutes of Pullman and Moscow.  Our region values our water resource and continues to achieve a good balance in promoting wise economic growth while at the same time working to ensure clean pure water for future generations.

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