So, what did all the local geology and hydrology experts tell us about the aquifers?
According to today's Lewiston Tribune, nothing. A study supported by Latah County failed to discover how the Wanapum aquifer under Moscow is being recharged.
"We know very little, almost nothing," said Jerry Fairley Jr., a University of Idaho hydrology professor who announced the findings. He said there is little potential for recharge along the Moscow Mountain front because thick layers of clay and ancient peat bogs appear to keep precipitation from percolating down into water-carrying basalt formations tapped by wells.Hmmm, so clay is keeping the Wanapum aquifer from being recharged? Maybe the Naylor Farms open-pit clay mine wouldn't be that bad of an idea after all. That would be the ultimate ironic payback for Moscow.
"So we have not a lot of ways to get water into the basalt," Fairley said.
According to a PBAC [Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee] study conducted as part of a groundwater management plan, the actual amount of water available remains pretty much a mystery. Even though an average drop of 1.5 feet in the lower Grand Ronde aquifer has been documented, water level data since 1992 reveal no consistent trends, according to the study. Static water levels in some monitored wells declined, others remain relatively stable, and yet others indicate possible increases, according to the findings.Heck, who cares if we don't know whether the aquifers are being depleted or not. Let's stop all growth in Whitman County just in case. As a UI law professor stated, "You've got to integrate land-use and water-use planning." Sure, nothing like basing land-use planning on a poorly understood and researched natural phenomenon. I can see companies lined up around the block to do business on the Palouse if that's the case.
And heck, who cares if we have a water crisis or not, let's pretend like we do and tear down all local government authority over planning. For as one Moscow businessman assures us, "This is truly a resource that knows no, or respects no boundaries." Certainly all that tax revenue from the Hawkins Companies development in the Pullman-Moscow corridor shouldn't respect boundaries, right Moscow?
Have you noticed how interest in the region's aquifers has been directly proportional to the growth in Pullman and Whitman County? And have you noticed how certain people who demand more of a public voice in the planning process are more than willing to defer that same planning authority to some amorphous, unelected, multi-jurisdictional, quasi-Soviet water committee?
Here's a novel idea. When the scientists ACTUALLY know what is going on, let's hold a "summit." Until then, let's drown all the panic.