Drinking water in the City of Spokane comes from wells that extract water from the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. The Aquifer has been studied in considerable detail since 1977. The City, Spokane County, and other water purveyors work to protect the Aquifer.
Water from the Aquifer is of high quality and is treated only with chlorine disinfectant before distribution. Our drinking water quality is regulated by both Federal and State rules. The City has a robust testing program to monitor the quality of our drinking water. This information helps guide future testing and meets the City's obligation to provide water quality data to citizens, businesses, and water systems that buy water from the City. Read the City's 2014 technical water quality report.
To protect the Aquifer and regional drinking water, the City works to manage critical materials appropriately and follows best practices for managing stormwater on site. Stormwater can be a major source of pollution as it picks up pollutants that are deposited on hard surfaces.
The City is working with other local water purveyors and governments to protect drinking water wells. We are involved in efforts to evaluate how groundwater moves and how pollution near these wellheads can reach our drinking water. Read the recommendations for development of Regional Wellhead Protection measures.
Using our water wisely is important. The State of Washington requires we demonstrate our water use efficiency, and the City reports annually on our status. View our most recent Annual Water Use Efficiency Performance Report (PDF 32 KB).
Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer: As mentioned above the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer is a significant regional resource. The Aquifer Atlas (PDF 10.9 MB) is a great way to learn about the aquifer.
The City has several regulations and initiatives aimed at protecting this resource. In addition to requiring proper management of critical materials, the City also has regulations governing under and above ground storage tanks.
The improper disposal of common household chemicals such as anti-freeze, motor oil, and paint can pose a threat to the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. Household Hazardous Waste collection facilities are available at the Waste to Energy plant and two garbage transfer stations.
Spokane River: The Spokane River is the centerpiece of the Spokane environment. It is intricately linked to the Spokane Aquifer, providing seasonal groundwater recharge and, in turn, being sustained by the Aquifer in the heat of summer. For people the River provides aesthetic and recreational opportunities. Its power has been harnessed by seven hydroelectric dams providing clean electric power.
The Spokane River is on the State of Washington's list of impaired waters for:
We are working to dramatically reduce the contamination of the River from untreated flows from combined stormwater and wastewater sewers and separated storm sewer. We are also working to improve the water quality of flows coming from the City's Water Reclamation Facility.
For more information on the Spokane River and its tributaries, visit the Department of Ecology.
Latah / Hangman Creek: The lower Latah Creek basin is a geologically complex area experiencing relatively rapid development. The seasonally “flashy” creek is constrained by a state highway and steep hillsides of varying stability. Since most of this watershed is at relatively low elevation as compared to other local streams, it is frequently the first to reach flood stage and is more commonly influenced by rain and snow events. The Spokane County Conservation District has done a lot of work in this drainage basin and leads a Watershed Planning process for the creek.
Little Spokane River: The Little Spokane River lies just to the north of the City of Spokane. This stream provides limited but significant recreational opportunities and priceless habitat. The lower portion of the Little Spokane River receives significant in-flow from the Spokane Aquifer.
Wetlands: Wetlands in the City have been identified and are protected under the Critical Areas zoning. The Planning Department identifies and enforces the protection of wetlands in the City.
Upriver Dam: The City's Upriver Dam Hydroelectric Facility provides power for drinking water pumping. Excess power is sold to Avista. This facility is permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility (RPWRF): The Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility has a federal and state wastewater treatment NPDES permit that covers discharges from the plant into the Spokane River. In addition, the permit covers untreated discharges into the River from the wastewater collection system that occur when stormwater surcharges the piping system to the point of exceeding its capacity. These discharges and discharge points are referred to as combined sewer overflow (CSO) events and outfalls.
Stormwater Facilities: The City also has a federal and state NPDES Phase II stormwater permit for stormwater that's collected and piped directly to surface waters. Another stormwater system currently in use here involves discharge to ground, whether directly or through grassy infiltration swales. These latter facilities are covered under the state's Underground Injection Control (UIC) regulations and state Waste Discharge permits.
Northside Landfill: The City has two old landfills that have been covered to prevent stormwater from leaching through and carrying contaminants out. These landfills had impacted local groundwater and monitoring and controls remain in place to minimize future impacts. The landfills are regulated under the Spokane Regional Health District's solid waste permitting authorities and come under state and federal regulation as well. The Northside Landfill has a modern, lined waste containment cell which was constructed as the old landfill was closed and is currently in active use. It primarily serves to take wastes which are not appropriate for the Waste-to-Energy Facility.
Shoreline Management: The City recently updated its Shoreline Management Plan and regulations. This land-use control is enforced by the Planning Department through building and site development regulation. The plan strives to balance the competing interests of individual property rights and the environment as required by State law.
Watershed Planning: There are four state-defined Watershed Planning areas, also referred to as Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs), containing portions of the City: The Little Spokane WRIA 55, the Middle Spokane WRIA 57, Hangman/Latah Creek WRIA 56, and the Lower Spokane WRIA 54. Water quantity, water quality, and minimum in-stream flows are the key planning topics.
The City of Spokane will spend about $300 million in the next few years on projects to improve the health of the Spokane River.
The City is developing an Integrated Clean Water Plan that will prioritize projects based on their positive environmental impact to the river. The goal is to create a plan that is both environmentally and financially responsible.
In particular, the plan will include work to improve treatment at the City's Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility and reduce the amount of stormwater and wastewater entering the River without treatment. Projects to reduce untreated discharges to the river from both separated storm sewers and combined sanitary and stormwater sewers are a big part of the effort. The work will include new green technologies for managing stormwater on site as well as more traditional “gray” storage tanks.
Overall, some 54 million gallons of combined wastewater and stormwater enters the river through 20 discharge points from our combined sewer system annually. Another 1 billion gallons of untreated stormwater enters the river through separated storm drains, primarily located on the North Side.