By: Ben Serr | Senior Planner, Growth Management Services, WA State Dept. of Commerce

The Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water formed a partnership last year with the Department of Commerce, Small Communities Initiative to work with public drinking water systems on issues related to groundwater depletion in the Mid-Columbia Basin. The area of focus includes Adams, Franklin, Grant, and Lincoln counties. More than 130 water systems in the area, serving about 92,000 residents, draw their drinking water from underground sources. Demand for groundwater has caused the water table to drop significantly in some areas of the basin. Many water systems do not know if or how their wells are being affected.

Water systems can take steps to understand the status of their wells and plan ahead. The Department of Health recommends the following:

Collect water level measurements and determine the long-term trend. Understand how soon water demands will exceed supply.

  • Review and update your water system’s emergency and water shortage response plans. Update all of your emergency contacts. Consider practicing your emergency procedures.
  • Share your wells’ depth-to-water data so that other systems in your area can prepare. Request this information from neighboring systems.
  • Talk to your customers so that they understand how groundwater well depletion will affect them now and in the future. Let them know what emergency procedures are in place, what they must do, and what it may cost.
  • Adopt measures that encourage water use efficiency, including rebates for water-efficient fixtures and a rate structure that encourages conservation.
  • Establish new sources of supply by creating emergency or permanent interties.

One more thing water systems can do is advocate for themselves. More attention needs to be placed on understanding the aquifers that these water systems depend on. By getting the attention of policy makers and bringing state and federal resources to the table, work can be done to increase our localized knowledge about the aquifers, and it may be possible to slow the level of decline. This is why projects like the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program and expanding the East Low Canal are important. They reduce the demand being placed on these finite water resources and help extend their productivity into the future.

The Department of Commerce will be holding two rounds of meetings with the water systems. The first round is happening soon. If you are interested in attending any of the following meetings, or have more questions, please contact Ben Serr at (509) 724-1699 or

Meeting times and locations: 


Thursday, June 14, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Lincoln County Public Works Building

27232 SR25 N, Davenport 99122



Tuesday, June 19, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Grant County Public Works Building

124 Enterprise St SE, Ephrata 98823



Tuesday, July 10, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Council Chambers, Othello City Hall

500 E. Main St., Othello 99344



Monday, July 16, 3:00 – 5:00 pm

Franklin County PUD Auditorium

1411 W. Clark St., Pasco 99301

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