Another prospect for aquifer recharge: The Virgin Valley Water District, which has been receiving more water from the Virgin River than it needs.
Recharge is still only in the study stages. But a district hydrologist said in a report, “One option available to VVWD is to evaluate the potential of artificial recharge into the groundwater aquifer and store the unused permitted water underground to minimize evaporative loss. The recharged water can be recovered at a later date when VVWD needs to utilize the available water resource.”
[see St. George (UT) Desert Valley Times, April 21]
The Washington Department of Ecology is looking into the idea of using water from Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho Panhandle, injecting it into the ground at the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, and sending that water toward the often-depleted Spokane River.
The department said flows at the Spokane have diminished greatly, to as low (in late summer) as 100 cubic feet per second.
Whether Washington state could get approval from Idaho for such a plan remains a trickier question. A Spokane Spokesman-Review story [February 4] on the idea noted that Idaho officials are in favor of researching water flows and needs in the northern Idaho-eastern Washington area, but withheld comment on whether they would approve of the idea of Idaho water resources used in that way.
Gradually diminishing costs for desalinization are prompting a push for more use of groundwater in areas where it has historically been avoided as too salty, according to news reports.
They said that in the areas around Albuquerque and Santa Fe, about 325,000 acre feet of groundwater, traditionally unwanted because of poor quality, have been the subject of filings with the state engineer’s office just within the past year. Less than a tenth as much had been pursued in the many years prior. A similar pattern obtained in several other areas of the state, including Las Cruces.
The water apparently is intended for treatment and then use to service the rapidly-growing parts of the state.
The LCRA Board of Directors approved four resolutions related to the LCRA-SAWS Water Project, giving guidance focused on protecting and benefitting the lower Colorado River basin. As work on the feasibility studies progresses, LCRA staff requested guidance on key policy assumptions related to: projections for firm municipal and industrial water needs in the lower Colorado River basin; planning for expected needs for agricultural irrigation; use of groundwater for agricultural needs and how water reserved for future use should be factored into the project studies.
The LCRA-SAWS Water Project is a water-sharing proposal to develop alternative supplies and conserve water that could help meet long-term needs in the lower Colorado River basin and the San Antonio area. LCRA and the San Antonio Water System are in the fifth year of an in-depth study of the proposal’s technical, environmental and financial feasibility.
At its December 17 meeting, the Board directed staff to include in the project studies: updated water projections for municipal and industrial growth that is occurring and was not reflected in previous planning projections; adequate water supplies to meet agricultural water needs on an interruptible basis; and limitations on groundwater use for dry periods when there is not enough surface water. The Board also directed that 50,000 acre-feet of water reserved in LCRA’s Water Management Plan will be kept in reserve and that LCRA will explore opportunities to make water supply available to the project.
LCRA staff will incorporate the guidance from the Board into the feasibility studies and will have results in spring 2009 that will show whether project requirements can be met and how much water may be available for SAWS. Project plans call for state and federal permit applications to be filed within the next two years and a draft implementation plan to be presented to the LCRA Board of Directors in 2015. At that time the LCRA Board must find that the project will adequately protect and benefit the lower Colorado River basin in order for the project to go forward. Also, the SAWS Board of Trustees must determine whether the amount of water and cost meets SAWS’ needs.
LCRA will hold project update meetings on February 3 in El Campo and Feb. 5 in Burnet.
For more information, please contact 1-800-776-5272, Ext. 7208, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is approving the Navajo Nation’s application to administer the underground injection control program for oil and gas-related injection wells.
The UIC program authorizes specific waste streams to be injected, and prescribes operating measures to ensure that underground sources of drinking water are protected. Under the Navajo Nation’s UIC program, the tribe will have authority to issue permits, conduct inspections, participate in enforcement actions, and support the EPA’s annual reporting.
The program will apply to roughly 400 existing oil and gas-related injection wells, known as class II wells, and any future wells located within the exterior boundaries of the formal Navajo Reservation, and on Navajo Nation tribal trust lands and trust allotments in the Eastern Agency – an area of Navajo Indian land located outside the boundaries of the formal reservation.
The EPA determined that the Navajo Nation’s class II UIC program is at least as stringent as the federal program. The Navajo Nation, which assisted the EPA in implementing and enforcing federal regulations on Navajo lands, modeled its program after the EPA’s program.
The Navajo Nation has worked diligently over the past several years to develop an effective program by enacting the Navajo Nation Safe Drinking Water Act—putting into law UIC regulations, and developing the technical, permitting and enforcement capacity to fully implement the injection well program.
The final rule will publish in the Federal Register within the next week. Additional information about this action is available on the EPA’s Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/groundwater/navajonation
Ground was broken August 22 at Coachella Valley Water District’s newest full-scale groundwater recharge facility, which will replenish 40,000 acre-feet annually into the eastern Coachella Valley’s aquifer. This amount of water is equal to what is used each year by about 85,000 residents and will alleviate the overdraft of groundwater supplies throughout the eastern valley.
Representatives from all levels of government, other water agencies, agriculture and business were among those who attended the brief ceremony at the facility, located west of Monroe Street, between Avenues 60 and 62 in La Quinta.
The Dike 4 Groundwater Recharge Facility is named due to its proximity to the Dike 4 flood control berm. The facility takes advantage of existing pipes currently used to deliver Colorado River water from Lake Cahuilla, at the terminus of the Coachella Canal, to farmland. Thirty-nine recharge basins are being built at the facility and will cover nearly half of the project’s 163 acres.
Replenishment is among the most effective methods available for preserving local groundwater supplies, reversing aquifer overdraft and meeting demand by domestic and commercial water consumers.
CVWD and Desert Water Agency have been cooperatively recharging the upper Coachella Valley at Windy Point, west of Palm Springs, with their entitlements to State Water Project water for 35 years. Additional replenishment began at Mission Creek about five years ago. Since 1973, the aquifer has been replenished with more than 2 million acre-feet of imported water. Overdraft in the valley amounts to approximately 5.1 million acre-feet annually.
CVWD launched two pilot projects to ensure that meaningful replenishment was possible in the eastern valley. Replenishment at Dike 4 began in 1997, and through last year nearly 25,000 acre-feet had been recharged there; at Martinez Canyon, recharge began in 2005, with replenishment exceeding 4,150 acre-feet in 2007.
Scientific studies concluded these were suitable locations in the eastern valley for effective aquifer recharge. A clay aquitard allows for the drilling of wells in the eastern valley, but thwarts the use of conventional groundwater replenishment techniques on the valley floor. Water cannot percolate directly through the clay layer into the lower aquifer, in which most of the water suitable for domestic and irrigation purposes is located.
Along the edges of the eastern valley, however, the absence of the aquitard and the presence of more permeable materials make replenishment feasible. The aquitard actually enhances the distribution of replenishment water because it creates pressure that pushes recharged water throughout the lower aquifer.
To date, $43 million has been budgeted for the Dike 4 recharge facility; $6 million for the pump plant, $10 million for the recharge basins and $27 million for land acquisitions.
Coachella Valley Water District Contact: Dennis Mahr, email@example.com, (760) 398-2651 Ext. 2352; Jack Porrelli, firstname.lastname@example.org, (760) 398-2651 Ext. 2355; Heather Engel, email@example.com, (760) 398-2651 Ext. 2353
The California Legislature has passed, though Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may veto, a bill which would allow the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1, to inject water into the ground so as to allow for some limited water banking.
The bill (Assembly Bill 2686) was not controversial (it passed the Assembly with no opposition votes), and provides for only a few changes at the district.
The governor has indicated he would veto all bills until a state budget is passed. Some advocates have hoped he may exempt this bill since it does not affect the state budget.
The North Side Canal Company is providing use of its canal system, manpower, and equipment for the first ever post-irrigation season recharge of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer starting Saturday and continuing until late November.
The goal is to direct the greatest amount of water from the canal through the aquifer toward the Thousand Springs reach of the Snake River. The water used to recharge the aquifer is being purchased by the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association. The recharge is part of mitigation agreements submitted to the Idaho Department of Water Resources on June 29 in order to avoid water curtailment that was set to take effect July 6. The curtailment orders were issued as part of a continuing response to water delivery calls made in 2005 by senior water right holders Blue Lakes Trout Farm and Clear Springs Foods’ Snake River Farm.
The post-irrigation season recharge will add water to the aquifer and provide mitigation for the water diversions of the junior ground water users to compensate the spring users for their 2007 water shortage.
The post-season aquifer recharge is unique because most often the canals are used to deliver water from the Snake River to another location, such as a farm, with as little water loss as possible. In this instance the canals are being used to deliver water to specific locations in the North Side canal system as identified using the state’s computer model of the Eastern Snake Plain aquifer. Water that leaks out of the canal system into the ground is projected by the computer model to provide maximum benefit to the springs. IDWR hydrologists will monitor the recharge effort and use various flow measuring devices, including acoustic Doppler, to determine where the water enters the aquifer. The computer model will again be used to assess the effects of the recharge on spring flows.
This project will also help IDWR hydrologists understand the interaction between the network of canals and the water contribution to the aquifer, and provide useful information for future aquifer recharge projects.
Earlier this week North Side Canal Company ended its irrigation operations for the year. The company then drained and prepared the canal system for the recharge project, which will commence tomorrow morning and will last for approximately six weeks. The aquifer recharge will take place in a limited window between the end of the irrigation season and the onset of ice buildup in the canal system.
The aquifer recharge project required considerable collaboration between the North Side Canal Company, the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators, and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.
“It’s gratifying to see these entities working together to improve the aquifer and the flows from the springs,” says IDWR Director David Tuthill. “This is the kind of cooperation that we’ll need more of in the future to make it through dry water years. This kind of effort really addresses the problem and provides solutions instead of other options like curtailment.”
Contact: Bob McLaughlin – 208-287-4828 Boise, Idaho – October 19