Wood River Valley's Water Table is Dropping

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Several Wood River Vally residents started noticing silt in their bathtubs, brown water running out of their faucets, and lawn sprinklers no longer working due to low water pressure. The Idaho Mountain Express reports that Wood River Valley residents' wells are drying up.

"The water table is dropping out from under a lot of the wells out there," Ray Freeman of Wood River Drilling and Pump told IME. "The water table is going down drastically."

One reason, Freeman said, is that when older homes were built, not that many people were using wells, so they weren't drilled very deep. Now that there's more crowding in subdivisions relying on well water, a few residents are having to have their wells drilled deeper. One homeowner is paying $7,000 to have her well deepened from 114 feet to 220 feet.

Continued development could also be sucking the groundwater dry. City code does require subdivision developers to show there's adequate water available for domestic use and fire protection, but the county planning director told the newspaper he didn't know of any subdivision that's ever been denied due to insufficient water. 

Another reason for the dropping water table comes from this summer, which followed two winters with low snowfall. Jim Bartolino is an Idaho groundwater specialist for the U.S. Geological Survey and he said a recent USGS study showed declines in wells that pull from tributary watersheds in the area.

"All the water is coming from precipitation that falls in that watershed," he told IME. "In a dry year, the wells in these tributaries are going to get hammered."

The water table is likely to continue to drop as the ground freezes, restricting water's ability to percolate into the ground and refill the aquifer.