RICHLAND, Wash. – A new study is providing the most comprehensive look yet at what’s causing groundwater to decline in parts of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The study by the U.S. Geological Survey looks at the Columbia Plateau, an area about the size of Ohio. It covers a region that runs through Eastern Washington, Oregon and Western Idaho.
Scientists have known since about the 1970s that groundwater was dramatically declining in parts of the Northwest’s high desert. This research combined measurements from about 60,000 wells, from the late 1800s to the present day.
Erick Burns, a hydrologist with the USGS, said some of the most depleted areas were Oregon’s Umatilla Basin and Washington’s Palouse Slope.
“Water is not moving into or out of these areas very efficiently, so when you start removing water from that area, the water levels drop quite fast,” Burns said.
Burns said the report helped researchers understand what’s contributing to groundwater declines – things like irrigation wells and the area’s geology.
Up next: researchers will design a model to help manage the arid Northwest’s limited groundwater supplies as demand continues to rise in the future.
Congrats to David James for his winning submission, 'Annabella smelling the Balsam.'
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