09 Mar Advancing Ground Water Permitting in the CBP
Senate Bill 5230 surfaced in the 2021 Legislative session to provide authority for Ecology to enter into agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation to create a ground water permitting program like that which currently exists in the Quincy Basin ground water management area. The League supports the bill.
The current ground water code, RCW 90.44.130, was enacted in 1945 when Columbia Basin Project (CBP) construction was just getting underway. It provided a method for entities who were operating traditional aquifer storage and recovery projects to make claims on the water they stored for their continued use. Ecology, in the early 1970’s, created three ground water management subareas in the CBP area, the Quincy Basin, Odessa Subarea and the 508-14. 508-14 is the original Washington Administrative Code chapter number and the area is now known as the Pasco Basin. They recognized that CBP operations, delivering over three million-acre feet of water annually to the region, was having a significant impact on the ground water in the region. Reclamation at that time claimed the shallow groundwater present in the Quincy Basin, and a program was established to access the water.
A USGS study completed in 2016 characterized the ground water in Pasco Basin and estimated that 6.8-million-acre feet of water had accumulated from CBP waste, seepage and return flows. The water is Reclamation water; the state legislative bill simply advances efforts for Reclamation to use the water in deliveries to landowners. Ecology has provided technical assistance with the language and Reclamation has reviewed it and believes it meets their needs.