Aquifer - Drinking Water
In the Inland Northwest, we are fortunate to live in an area where our drinking water comes from a relatively clean aquifer compared to most places in the world. People around the world obtain their drinking water from surface water sources which contain human and animal waste and industrial pollutants, and which must be heavily treated.
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.
Department of Health - Office of Drinking Water
The mission of the Office of Drinking Water is to protect the health of the people of Washington state by ensuring safe and reliable drinking water.
Idaho-Washington Aquifer Collaborative (IWAC)
The Idaho Washington Aquifer Collaborative is a 501 (C)(3) corporation made up of Idaho and Washington water purveyors.
The purpose of the Idaho Washington Aquifer Collaborative (IWAC) is to work together to maintain and/or enhance water quality and quantity for present and future generations by developing management strategies which benefit the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer (as defined by the USGS, “the Aquifer”) and the Spokane River region. IWAC will facilitate regional dialogues and studies that result in recommendations for policy directions and shared stewardship of the Aquifer and the Spokane River, in a collaborative manner.
Watch this IWAC video below about the importance of backflow prevention valves particularly as they pertain to blowing out your home sprinkler system.
Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events flows over land or impervious surfaces. As the runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops), it accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is discharged untreated. The primary method to control stormwater discharges is the use of best management practices (BMPs).
Why discuss stormwater within the Aquifer Water Quality topic? Because, while many stormwater systems discharge into Combined Sewer Overflows or to river outfalls, the Spokane County stormwater drains connect only to drywells. (The County does have two bridge decks that drain into the river.) It is critical to note that anything dumped into a storm drain goes untreated to the Aquifer. Follow the Stormwater link above to learn how you can avoid contaminating stormwater...and thus, the SVRP aquifer.
Spokane River - Recreation, Aquatic Life, Fish Consumption
When we think of water quality issues in Spokane County, our attention turns to the Spokane River. It carves its way through the county and into the Columbia River. It is an important natural resource to all area residents for many different reasons. Because of that, we all have a common interest in monitoring and improving its health. Spokane County Water Resources is closely involved in many activities with the ultimate goal of a body of water that is impacted as little as possible by the 500,000 people who live, work and play here.
Below are important pages to visit to learn more about water quality and the Spokane River. It is the County's duty to contribute to this discussion and to be a responsible steward of the river.
Non-point Source (NPS) Pollution
NPS pollution contributes significantly to water quality. Learn more about this elusive pollution which is difficult to identify and manage.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
PolyChlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) threaten the health of people and the environment. Though domestic PCBs were banned in 1979, many products that are imported into the country still have significant levels of PCBs. PCBs enter the wastewater system, river and aquifer through:
- Atmospheric deposition (transferred from air to the earth's surface),
- Consumer products (residues rinsed off in showers and through human waste, dyes washed from clothing, pigment from packaging and newsprint, fire retardant materials) and
- Stormwater runoff (carrying oil from our cars, paints and other products from all types of surfaces into storm drains).
PCBs in the Spokane River has been in the news a fair amount over the past several years and the health concerns are considerable, particularly for those whose diet includes a large amount of fish caught in the river. Learn more on our PCB page as well as a number of other local and national sources.
Protecting Our Aquifer & River
Spokane-Kootenai Waste Directory
One important action we can take is properly disposing of our hazardous waste. Visit the Spokane-Kootenai Waste Directory to understand the concerns of various hazardous waste and find available disposal locations.
Spokane Regional Health District - Environmental Public Health
The Environmental Public Health Division provides many programs focused on minimizing environmental hazards to public health, including several topics related to water.