State seeks comments on plan to pump water underground

Omak Chronicle


 OLYMPIA - Public comment is being sought by the state Department of Ecology on a proposal to allow underground water storage in natural aquifers.
     Difficulty in finding new water sources increases the appeal of using existing water-bearing formations, or aquifers, to store water, said DOE water resources program supervisor Joe Stohr.
     "Using an aquifer to store water essentially turns it into a water bank," said Stohr. "Aquifer storage and recovery offers a safe, reliable way for some communities to provide enough water for their growing populations."
     Water would be artificially injected into an aquifer during times of surplus, such as fall and winter, and recovered during times of peak water needs or during emergencies such as water shortages, Stohr said.
     Two years ago state legislators expanded the definition of reservoirs to include water stored in naturally occurring, underground geologic formations, according to a DOE announcement.
     DOE convened an advisory group comprising representatives from water utilities, consulting firms, academic institutions and local, state and tribal agencies to determine how best to implement the new law.
     The proposed rule is based on that group's recommendations to the department.
     Stohr said aquifer storage is more environmentally friendly than surface reservoirs, which often disrupt fish habitat and migration patterns. Storage aquifers also could:
      Offer more protection from potential tampering.
      Eliminate the need to construct structures to store surface water.
      Create potential to expand use of an aquifer, experiencing large fluctuations in water levels due to heavy pumping, to meet growing demands.
     Public comment on the proposed rule will be accepted through Sept. 9. Two meetings are slated for testimony in Kennewick Aug. 27 and Federal Way Aug. 28.
     Copies of the proposed aquifer storage and recovery rule may be obtained from and comments submitted at
     Written comments may be mailed to Kathleen Ensenat, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia 98504-7600; fax (360) 407-6574.

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