Protecting and Conserving the Spokane Water Source

The source of drinking water for over 500,000 people, the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) Aquifer is a natural treasure of North Idaho and Eastern Washington. It deserves to be preserved and protected. Practices such as eliminating septic tanks and pre-treating stormwater over the Aquifer have greatly improved water quality over what it was 40 years ago.
People Impacted
$ 72B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

Protecting and conserving the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, the Spokane/Idaho Panhandle's sole-source of drinking water supply, from pollution is crucial for the population's future. Since the mid-1980s, Spokane County has developed a regional sewer system in the greater Spokane Valley area, protecting the drinking water supply by removing approximately 30,000 septic tank/drain field systems located above the aquifer. Additionally the city has redoubled conservation efforts, focusing specifically on summer time and landscaping use.

Symptoms and Causes

Increased Summer Use of Water Supply

The Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Bi-State Aquifer Study determined that water levels in the aquifer are not declining. So why the concern over water use and protection? The study also demonstrated the link between the aquifer and the Spokane River. Summer withdrawals from the aquifer result in lower flows in the Spokane River. The Department of Ecology reports that a 10% reduction of summer withdrawals from the aquifer would increase summer flows by 40 cfs, or approximately 5% of August river flow. Because of the large amount of outdoor summer water use, the most gains can be made when focusing our conservation efforts in this area (SCWR).

Current and Historical Threats to Water Quality

In the 1970s, several visionaries for Spokane County began to recognize the threat to the aquifer of urban growth due to onsite septic systems. Development in the Spokane Valley threatened the SVRP Aquifer with chemical and biological pollution.

As a result, an ongoing regional effort began around 1980 to install sewer to the urbanized areas over the SVRP aquifer. The sewer system collects and transports residential and commercial wastewater to the Spokane County Regional Water Reclamation Facility (SCRWRF) for state-of-the-art treatment. Class A Reclaimed Water is then discharged from SCRWRF to the Spokane River. The Spokane Valley sewering and SCRWRF are all part of a regional effort to protect the interconnected Spokane River and SVRP Aquifer (SCWR).

the impact
Negative Effects

Possible Contamination

Anything that is spilled or poured onto the ground can seep into the aquifer below us. Pollution enters the river through stormwater pipes and as runoff from farms, lawns and gardens. Pollutants found in the river include lead, arsenic, zinc, PCBs, flame retardants (PBDEs), dioxins, and furans. These pollutants can cause harm to humans and the environment (SRHD).

Competition for Water Supply

Water is a precious, limited resource. In the Pacific Northwest, drinking water for our growing population competes with other users that include agriculture, industry, recreation, and maintaining an adequate stream flow for fish. Water conservation, using water efficiently and avoiding waste, is essential to ensure that we have adequate water today and into the future (IWAC).

Economic Impact

Each year Spokane invests millions of dollars in protecting and cleaning their water supply. The City of Spokane is in the midst of spending more than $340 million on projects that will improve the health of the Spokane River over the next few years. The City developed an Integrated Clean Water Plan that prioritizes projects based on their positive environmental impact to the river. The plan is designed to be both environmentally and financially responsible (Spokane City).

Success Metrics
  • Reduce use of water, especially during summer months.

  • Transition homes to water conscience landscaping.

  • Educate the general pubic on using environmental friendly products and habits to protect water.

  • Incentivize reduced water use.

  • Incentivize projects that positively impact the water supply.

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • Spokane City and County

  • Department of Ecology

  • Idaho Washington Aquifer Collaborative

  • Spokane Regional Health District

  • Companies who use the river for power and as runoff

  • Citizens of Spokane and North Idaho

  • Ecologists

  • Environmentalists

  • Sanitation workers

financial insights
Current Funding
  • The Spokane Water Department has resources available to help our customers reduce their water use and utility bills. Some of the free resources for our customers include(Spokane City):

    • Outdoor Conservation Kits-includes repair parts and hose nozzle

    • Indoor Conservation Kits- includes a low-flow shower head, aerators, and a toilet water saving device

    • Indoor Water Use Credit

    • SpokaneScape Turf Replacement Rebate Program

    • Educational Events and Presentations

  • Beginning in 2015, the City has instituted a wastewater bill discount for the lowest 20% of indoor water users with Water Wise Spokane

Ideas Description

Make sure people understand how seasonal changes can effect the water supply with backflow:

Tech Solutions

Additionally, implementing tools to help individuals and corporations be aware of their water usage and environmental practices can help. See what's featured on X4IMpact:

Water1der is a free groundwater awareness trivia app from the Groundwater Foundation. Test your groundwater knowledge and learn more about this vital resource by working through the various categories and quizzes.

APANA’s patented technology gives organizations control over their water use. This enables significant reductions in risk, helps eliminate wasteful water use, and saves money. The solution’s value has been proven in large company deployments including Costco, Fetzer Winery, and MGM Resorts.

Intelligent Engagement & Analytics for Water Utilities & Their Customers. Modern, digitally-driven customers have modern, digitally-driven expectations. Dropcountr helps utilities meet expectations and increase customer satisfaction. Dropcountr is compatible with every major meter manufacturer on the market with any read frequency.

Water is a key input to nearly everything made on the planet. So we co-created the initial Earth Genome tool — The Green Infrastructure Support Tool, or GIST, focused on revealing options for corporate decisions on water use — by engaging with seven global corporations (under the auspices of WBCSD) for whom water is integral.

The Water Footprint Assessment Tool is a free online web application that provides clear insight into how water is appropriated for human uses and the impacts resulting from those uses.

Olsson's Groundwater Evaluation Toolbox (GET) is the next generation of groundwater management software. GET provides water managers the best technology available at their fingertips to empower them to make the best possible decisions about the future.

The Groundwater Recharge Assessment Tool (GRAT) gives agricultural water providers and Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), essential insights to maximize groundwater recharge opportunities. GRAT’s cloud-based application integrates hydrologic, agronomic and geologic science with best-available data from local, state and federal sources to create an indexed ranking of suitable sites.

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