Monday, February 2, 2009

Groundwater mining is occurring...

in the confined aquifers contained within the Columbia River Basalt Group. A recent study shows that groundwater levels are rapidly declining in eastern Washington. Although this is packaged as "news" it certainly is not.

The groundwater resource in semiarid eastern Washington has been exploited for decades in order to improve crop yields on what were formerly dryland farms. As an increasing number of wells were completed in these deep aquifers the water use has increased dramatically, exceeding the amount that naturally recharges the same aquifers, so the lowering water surface is the result. It's analogous to writing more and more checks from your bank account while never depositing sufficient funds to maintain a positive balance. Eventually you go bust.

A request has been made for $ 2.5 million in order to construct a groundwater model to "find potential solutions" to this problem. What a waste! Let me help! The solution is simple - pump less groundwater through improvements in irrigation infrastructure and plant only those crops that are low water tolerant, or return to a more manageable form of sustainable dryland farming. No amount of computer modeling will create, nor find, new water!


UPDATE: Here are two monitoring well hydrographs (click to enlarge) I grabbed from the USGS NWIS web site that show the degree of groundwater mining that is occurring in parts of Adams County.
Not exactly a picture of proper groundwater resource management in my opinion.

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