Integrated Clean Water Plan

The City of Spokane is working to improve the health of the Spokane River.

In the last year, the City has worked on a new approach to managing stormwater and wastewater that enters the Spokane River to help protect our River. The City is developing what's called an Integrated Clean Water Plan, that would prioritize projects based on their positive environmental impact to the River.

View the City's Utilities Director describing the plan and its work by watching the Green Solutions video in CityCable 5 video archive.

The City is working to develop a plan that is environmentally and financially responsible. The City will make a huge investment in this work and wants to ensure that we are getting the best results for our River and our citizens. This plan anticipates about $300 million in projects to meet Clean Water Act requirements.

We believe our approach will transform how we manage stormwater and wastewater, while building critical new infrastructure and other above-ground improvements to build stronger neighborhoods and a healthier Spokane.

The plan will include projects to reduce untreated flows to the river from both separate storm sewers and combined sanitary and stormwater sewers (see the CSO page for more information). In some parts of Spokane, all stormwater goes directly to the River (see Stormwater page for more information). Meanwhile, the discharges to the River from combined sewers occur during large storms or periods of significant snow melt when pipes become too full and overflow to the River.

Water Quality

The City has been working to address Spokane River water quality concerns for decades. From 2000 through 2012, the City spent $220 million on clean water improvements, including $175 million in improvements at the City's Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility, $40 million to reduce overflows to the River from combined sanitary and storm sewers, and $5 million on stormwater projects. We also have participated in regional efforts to improve dissolved oxygen levels and reduce PCBs and dioxins in the River.

Before considering an integrated strategy, the City had planned to spend that $300 million just to address overflows to the River from its combined sewers. These overflows occur during large storms. Other sources of pollution to the River, including stormwater, would not have been addressed with that investment. That means reductions in pollutants like PCBs and heavy metals would have been minimal.

In the last year, we have revolutionized our thinking to adopt an integrated approach to improve water quality designed to get enhanced results more quickly at a more affordable price. An integrated approach requires us to study all flows bringing pollutants to the river, consider all viable technologies options to manage those flows, and develop a comprehensive solution that helps bring us the best value for our investment—and the greatest pollution reduction for our River.

The Integrated Clean Water Plan Goals

  • We want a Cleaner River Faster.
    Under our integrated approach, the City will prioritize projects that have a greater impact on reducing pollution in the River. We are including stormwater work and improvements at our wastewater treatment plant to get us additional environmental value, rather than just focusing on overflows from combined sewers. In many respects, stormwater drives this discussion; it is going into the River continually not just during large storms that overwhelm the capacity of our combined sewers. The volume of untreated stormwater going to the River vastly surpasses the volume from combined sewers.
  • We want to implement Cost-Effective & Innovative Approaches.
    We want to look at the many approaches that are available to deal with stormwater. We are considering new “green” strategies—storm gardens, pervious pavements, and other technologies—to continue to get stormwater out of our existing systems for long-term management.
  • We want Holistic Integration with other Infrastructure.
    We want to leverage our investment to gain additional infrastructure work and above-ground improvements that improve neighborhoods. We plan to integrate street rehabilitation, water main replacement, park improvements, sidewalks, sewer pipe upgrades, and pedestrian/bike lanes or trails with our Integrated Plan projects. We want projects that have multiple benefits for our citizens, who ultimately are paying the bill, and our community overall. Work is under way on a combined transportation/utility infrastructure chapter of our Comprehensive Plan to set this long-term strategy.
The Projects

As part of our Integrated Clean Water Plan, we have found many efficiencies. We have:

  • Re-sized tanks to manage overflows from combined sewers based on actual rainfall and overflow data to meet current regulations.
  • Optimized the use of the overall piping system for storage during storms and accounted for the addition of a new wastewater treatment plant built by Spokane County that reduce the amount of wastewater in our system.
  • Incorporated stormwater removal from City piping systems during street construction.

The plan envisions a series of projects to control overflows from combined sewers and meet current regulations. Management of stormwater coming from what's commonly called the Cochran Basin on the North Side of Spokane, where the City separated storm sewers in the 1980s. Construction of tertiary treatment at the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility. A number of projects are already under way.

This set of work provides greater removal of PCBs, heavy metals, total suspended solids, and phosphorus than these projects would on their own.

We expect to submit our Integrated Clean Water Plan to the Department of Ecology in February 2014. Throughout this process, we have engaged the public, neighborhoods, regulators, environmental groups, river users, community partners, and other interested stakeholders to gain a greater understanding of this work. Projects will be completed over about the next 5 years.

Cleaner River Faster

On May 5, 2014, the Spokane City Council passed a resolution, adopting the City's Integrated Clean Water Plan, which is designed to be both environmentally and financially responsible. A final draft of the plan was completed in December 2014.