What is an aquifer?
is any underground permeable layer of rock and/or sediment that holds water and
also allows water to easily pass through it.
What is groundwater?
is water that is found in the saturated zones of earth below the topsoil. Groundwater is 30 to 40 times more plentiful than all the fresh water on the Earth’s surface, (excluding the water trapped as glacial ice). In many areas of the United States groundwater is the only source of drinking water for nearby communities. If contaminated, groundwater may be very difficult and costly to clean up and developing a new supply of drinking water may be equally difficult or nearly impossible. Protection measures that prevent groundwater from becoming contaminated are the most cost effective means to insure that this source of drinking water will remain available.
What does the designation “Sole Source” mean?
The designation of “Sole Source Aquifer” given to the Spokane/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1978 means that this aquifer is the sole or principal drinking water supply for our area and which, if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to the public’s health. There is no other economically viable source of drinking water available to replace this precious resource.
How deep is the aquifer?
The aquifer deposits range from about 150 feet to more than 600 feet deep. However, the distance from the top of the ground to the top of the water in the aquifer ranges from as little as 20 feet to as much as 200 feet.
How fast does the water in the aquifer travel?
The Spokane/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer has one of the fastest rates of flow in the world, moving as much as 50 feet per day in some areas. In comparison, a more typical aquifer flow rate would be expected to be between ¼ inch and 5 feet per day.
What are the people in Idaho doing to protect the Aquifer?
The Panhandle Health District in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Environmental
Quality monitors the Rathdrum Prairie portion of the Aquifer that flows through the State of Idaho. Additionally, the Panhandle Health District oversees their Aquifer Protection Programs that include Critical Materials Regulation, Non-Domestic Wastewater Discharges, Sewer Management Agreements and Sub-Aquifer Recharge Areas.
What does Spokane County do to protect the Aquifer?
Spokane County operates a Water Quality Program that, among other things, monitors the
water quality of the Spokane Aquifer. This program has also funded studies of the aquifer and assisted in data gathering for the aquifer modeling conducted as part of the development of the water purveyor’s wellhead protection plan. This subdivision of the county is currently working
with the water purveyors to produce and maintain an inventory of potential contaminate sources over the aquifer.
Spokane County also has a Critical Materials Ordinance (Spokane County Code Chapter 3.15) that requires all new construction activities to report on any substance proposed to be stored, used or handled over the aquifer that is included on the critical materials list (Section 3.15.070) and is projected to be present in a quantity equal to or greater than that defined on the list.
Single walled underground storage tanks were also eliminated through this regulation.
What is a (CCR) Consumer Confidence Report?
Each year, in late spring, every water customer receives a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) that tells you the water quality results of a regular, ongoing sampling effort of your drinking water. There are a number of elements in water, and safe levels have been determined by state and federal regulators. Call your Water Provider and ask for your CCR. If you don’t know who that is, visit our Member Purveyor
pages or look up your provider on the Coordinated Water System Map
Why do I have to test my backflow device?
The backflow device is required to prevent back-siphonage of potential contaminants from the customer’s property into the public water system. This can occur during a negative pressure event where water gets drawn backward from the service into the main water supply line. To ensure that the device is functioning properly, it must be tested by a state certified ‘backflow assembly’ tester. Even though the device exists and is installed correctly, failure of the device can result in contamination of the public water system and create a risk to public health.
Why does my water pressure vary so much?
Pressure is often mistaken for volume. Pressure will generally remain constant to within 3 or 4 pounds per square inch. Volume however, the amount of water available in the particular pipe, varies according to the number of users drawing water from it. A length of pipe can only hold a given amount of water. When one person draws water from that line, the experience will be a constant volume at a constant pressure. If a second person draws water from that line at the same time, the pressure will remain the same but the available volume reduces. As more and more people draw water from that same line, the available amount of water diminishes accordingly while the pressure still remains the same. Conversely, as users turn off their respective valves, the available water in that pipe (volume) increases.
Why does my glass of water look cloudy?
The ‘cloudiness’ is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water. As the bubbles rise to the surface they disperse into the atmosphere and are gone. This phenomenon occurs mostly in the
winter- time when the water supply is colder.
How do I prepare for a planned water outage?
Occasionally, your water supplier must ‘turn off’ your water supply for repairs to the system or for other reasons. If they have enough warning (non-emergencies), they will advise their customers to prepare for these situations. For drinking and cooking, store water in plastic bottles in the refrigerator. The water needs to be changed from time to time, or use a teaspoon of unscented household bleach for each gallon of water stored. For other purposes the bathtub is a readily available ‘reservoir’ that can hold several gallons of water. This water can be used for washing and to flush a toilet.
Who do I call in an emergency?
If it is a life threatening emergency call 911 first, then call your water provider. The SAJB Member Purveyors
have someone on call at their main number or list a specific emergency number. Be sure you know where your main water shut-off valve is located and how to turn it off if needed.
How do I know if my water is safe to drink?
Drinking water quality is regulated by the Department of Health
. Your water provider (purveyor) operates under a permit from Washington State Department of Health. All water purveyors take representative samples to insure their water meets or exceeds state and federal standards. There are 80 chemicals and microbes that are routinely tested in your system. Your water purveyor prepares a yearly Consumer Confidence Report. CCRs are available on the SAJB Member Purveyor
Safety can also depend on many things, such as; your age and current health status, where you are, and when you drink the water. Although the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer is a truly exceptional source of drinking water, there is always the remote possibility that it is not perfect (after all, it’s not a perfect world). If you are an immunocompromised person (for example, have Aids, are on chemo or radiation therapy, or had an organ transplant), it would be wise to discuss this question with your healthcare provider. Also, pay attention to the news. Your water purveyor typically supplies you with clean drinking water, but if they find that the water being delivered to your faucets is potentially contaminated, they will work very hard to inform their customers. This information would be available on the radio or television. Be aware that any source of drinking water, including bottle & filtered water, can reasonably be expected to have at least small amounts of some contaminants and the presence of contaminants does not necessarily pose a threat to your health.
For many years, the Spokane County Water Quality Management office has collected data from sampling the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. Visit their office in the Spokane County Utilities building or call 509-477-6024.
My faucet has a filter on it. Does this guarantee the water is safe to drink?
If filters are not properly maintained, microbes can grow in the filter. Clean and wash the filter container and replace the cartridge regularly.
I’m a home brewer, where can I get information about the hardness of my water?
Your water system may include hardness information in their yearly Consumer Confidence Report or on their website. If your water system is one of the SAJB Member Purveyors
go to their contact page and download the latest CCR or call them directly for more information.
What is the “hardness” of my water in grains?
Water quality regulations and laboratory reports typically refer to the hardness of water in “milligrams per liter”. However, many people in water-related industries use the term “grains”. If you are given the water hardness in “milligram per liter” or “parts per million”, multiply the hardness number by 0.058 to get “grains per gallon”. For example, if you have 220 milligrams per liter of ‘total hardness”, multiply 220 times 0.058. The hardness of your water is 13 or 12.8 “grains per gallon”.
Where can I dispose of household hazardous waste?
Residential hazardous wastes
in Spokane County can be taken to the Waste to Energy Facility or the SRSWS transfer stations. In north Idaho, the Kootenai County Solid Waste Department operates two transfer stations that accept hazardous wastes.
How can I safely dispose of hazardous business waste?
Disposal service providers
, licensed to properly dispose of hazardous business waste, are listed by the services they provide on our business assistance page.
How do I safely dispose of unused, expired or unwanted medications?
Never flush medicines down the toilet! If your trash goes to the Spokane Waste to Energy
Facility medications can be placed in the solid waste container to be burned. See our Pharmaceuticals
page for more detailed information.
How can I get copies of your publications?
via e-mail and request the publication name and number of copies you would like.
Many of our publications are available on the website as downloadable PDFs.
Where can I go to get information about the Spokane River?
The Spokane River Forum
provides up-to-date and archived information about the Spokane River. The Meet Me at the River
program offers Eco-Tour opportunities each summer to paddle all 111 miles of the river. The Water Trail
shows you how to access the river for all kinds of recreational activities. Sign up for the SRF e-news.
How fast is the Spokane River flowing?
In the spring, when dam gates are open, the river may flow at 40,000 cubic feet per second
(CFS). In the summer, the flow may fall to under 1,000 CFS. Think of a basketball as one CFS. Now imagine standing on the river bank and watching 40,000 basketballs pass by you every second. That’s a lot of water. If you want to know more about river flow go to United States
. USGS provides current river discharge data in CFS. River flow information includes the historic minimum, median, recent, mean and maximum flow rates in both data charts and graphs.
What is “purple pipe”?
Purple pipe is use in the water reclamation process to transport reclaimed water so it is not confused with drinking water or waste water. Reclaimed water
is used for irrigating golf courses and non-food crop lands.
Who decides our water rates?
The governing body for your water purveyor sets the water rates. A governing body may be a City Council, Board of Directors, or Board of Commissioners. Meeting dates and times are listed on the Member Purveyor