Water alternatives presented to Moscow leaders

By Anthony Kuipers; Moscow-Pullman Daily News

The Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee presented its report on alternative water sources to the Moscow City Council on Tuesday in an effort to inform city leaders about ways to slow the aquifer’s decline.

PBAC hired Alta Science and Engineering Inc. as a consultant to analyze the four alternatives. The recommended alternative is to divert water from the South Fork of the Palouse River in Pullman eight months out of the year, and divert water from Moscow’s Paradise Creek four months out of the year.

It was the option that scored the highest based on criteria that includes cost and reliability.

During a July PBAC meeting, Alta’s water resources division manager Robin Nimmer said this option had the least expensive capital cost of $73 million and the least expensive annual costs.

One of the other water alternatives involves diverting water from the Snake River to Pullman and Moscow through pipelines. Another would draw water from the South Fork of the Palouse River in Pullman and Flannigan Creek north of Moscow. Another calls for diverting water from Paradise Creek and both the north and south forks of the Palouse River.

The recommended alternative also calls for continued water conservation.

“It’s something we can do right now,” PBAC Executive Director Celine Acord said about conservation.

Tyler Palmer, Moscow deputy city supervisor, said PBAC is working with regional government entities to develop a common conservation plan.

Current conservation efforts in Moscow and Pullman have already been successful in slowing the aquifer’s decline since the 1990s.

Palmer said despite population growth, Pullman’s water use has increased only 3% since 1992. Moscow’s has declined 9% since that year.

Still, the aquifer is dropping at 0.73 feet per year, Palmer said. PBAC is anticipating a continued population growth of 1% annually.

Palmer said PBAC will continue to gather more data to refine the water alternatives. He said PBAC hopes to begin the formal design process in 3-5 years.

Acord said that while PBAC has a recommended water alternative, it is “not the end all be all.”

PBAC plans to get more public feedback, an effort that the City Council strongly encouraged Tuesday. City Councilor Julia Parker advised PBAC to go to every citizen group meeting it can to spread the word among the public.

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