By Larry Ganders

Government Relations

More than 1.3 million gallons of water per day could be reclaimed and treated to protect a declining Palouse water table if a capital construction project proposed by Washington State University and the City of Pullman receives legislative approval in the 2003 legislative session.

The proposal, funded for predesign by the 2002 Legislature, was not included in Gov. Gary Locke’s proposed capital budget. State Rep. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, who spearheaded efforts last year to secure predesign funding through the Centennial Clean Water Fund, is a leading advocate for this proposal in the House.

The $10.7 million proposal would design and construct the project during the 2003 – 05 biennium. The project is the third-highest project proposed in the WSU Pullman capital budget request for construction in the upcoming biennium (After Johnson Hall and the Cleveland Education additions.)

WSU consumes about 2.8 million gallons of water per day from an underground water table that is declining by more than one foot per year. The source also provides water for other communities within Whitman County in Washington and Latah County in Idaho. It is the exclusive source of domestic, commercial and industrial water, and the declining table threatens to stifle population growth and economic development in the region. The projected water use growth over the next 10 years is approximately 1.7 million gallons per year, or about 60 percent.

Under the reclamation project, more than 2 million gallons of wastewater effluent per day could be treated, filtered and recycled by the proposed plant. Treated water (Washington Class A Standard) could irrigate city and WSU agricultural lands, parks and recreation areas, and could provide cooling water for the new WSU Energy Plant, a construction project approved by the 2002 Legislature.

If the proposed water project is constructed, no major water facilities will need to be built to support the university’s water needs –– at least through the next decade. If the new treatment plant is not built, new wells and water storage tanks will need to be constructed within six years. The costs of these projects will be in the millions of dollars and will put further stress on the declining aquifer. New water rights and pumping permits would need to be secured by 2007.