basalt bank pilot & task force



Q:    What is the “Basalt Bank Relief and Testing Program”? 

A:  In order to address the groundwater issues in the Umatilla Basin, serious steps need to be taken to test potential aquifer recovery solutions. The testing program will be a multi-year effort to test replacement, monitoring, and protection strategies to recover basalt aquifers. The first step of this plan is convening a Basalt Bank Task Force who will lay the groundwork for the testing effort. The Task Force will advise on feasibility of various elements of the plan and make a set of recommendations to guide the multi-year testing program. 

Q:    Why is this one of NOWA’s top priorities? 

A:   NOWA’s goal is to protect sustainable irrigated land base and to stabilize and recover groundwater basalt levels. The Basalt Bank Task Force and subsequent Basalt Relief and Testing Program will have a major impact in advancing this goal.  

Q:    Why are only the Critical Groundwater Areas targeted? 

A:    Once an area is designated as a Critical Groundwater Area, it becomes subject to a great deal of monitoring and oversight by OWRD. In the Stage Gulch CGA and the Butter Creek CGA, OWRD has established Sustainable Annual Yields (SAY) in the CGA’s subareas. The SAY scheme presents an ideal set of test conditions for the five year pilot study. The state uses extensive modeling and monitoring to determine the SAY each year. This work provides an existing data set that the Relief testing effort can reference and work off of. The Relief program will be able to test various scenarios and monitor the impact on yearly SAYs.   

Q:    What is the Basin attempting to accomplish? 

A:   The Basin is attempting a structured effort to reverse the historical pumping regime in the CGAs and in the Umatilla Basin more broadly. From a historical perspective, a great deal of farm ground was developed with groundwater as its primary resource. At the much of it was developed, no pipeline infrastructure or program could was in place to bring water supplies from the Columbia River. The goal is to reinvent the system of use to make surface water used the primary option, to be used as a “checking account” and allow groundwater supplies to be saved in the ground. Overall, the goal is to limit conflicts with municipalities and agricultural users.  

Q:    How would the Basin accomplish the goal of replacing or reducing groundwater pumping? 

A:    The Basin understands and is requesting the state’s assistance in to add or amend legal language to saved water from appropriation for the duration of five year test effort. To truly understand the effects of pumping less groundwater, a mechanism to project unpumped groundwater must be in place.  

Q:    Why hasn’t this been done before? 

A:    Basin has long understood and been aware of this problem, but never had a source of replacement water necessary to test or implement any sort of banking program. To bank groundwater, you must provide people with an economical alternative. Now that a source of Columbia River water has been secured and infrastructure development efforts are underway, testing efforts are in a prime position to move forward.