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Office of Columbia River

Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program

Lind Siphon Completion

 Farmers, local dignitaries and water managers today celebrated construction of the new Lind Coulee Siphon complex. It’s part of a 10-year effort to bring surface water to hundreds of deep-well irrigators now relying on a declining aquifer known as the Odessa Subarea.

With the flip of a switch and raising of a gate, water from the Columbia River poured through newly built siphons to be delivered to farmers growing potatoes, corn, alfalfa, and seed crops in the rolling hills near this Eastern Washington town.

“Today beautifully illustrates how together we can achieve water solutions for farmers and growing communities, and benefit the natural environment,” said Washington state Department of Ecology director Maia Bellon. “Through these siphons we will deliver water to farmers who need it; to support a $1.5 billion agricultural industry; to put good food on our tables, and protect a precious aquifer that has dropped by as much as 200 feet since 1980.”  more...

The Project

In 2006, the Legislature directed the Department of Ecology to find "alternatives to groundwater for agricultural users in the Odessa subarea aquifer;" (RCW 90.90.020.) Ecology's Office of Columbia River took the first step in that process a few months later when they teamed up with the  U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to investigate solutions to the problem, eventually releasing the "Odessa Subarea Special Study Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)." The EIS provided a "preferred alternative," which would supply 164,000 ac-ft of surface water from Banks Lake to irrigate 70,000 acres of land currently irrigated with groundwater. OCR and Reclamation are currently constructing the infrastructure needed to bring the water to the Columbia Basin irrigation districts. The districts will build the infrastructure needed to deliver the water to farmers.

OCR has also secured 30,000 ac-ft of water supply through it's Coordinated Conservation Project with the Columbia Basin irrigation districts, and another 30,000 ac-ft from the Lake Roosevelt Supplemental Releases Project. In all, 90,000 acres of land will be switched from groundwater to surface water. Farmers who meet the following eligibility requirements may participate in the program:

  • Lands must be within the Federal Columbia Basin Project.
  • Lands must have a valid state-issued groundwater right (permit or certificate)
  • Lands must be within the Odessa Subarea Special Study area boundary
  • Landowners must be able to enter into a water service contract.

Questions and answers about the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program.

Getting the water to the Odessa Subarea requires a number of infrastructure improvements: 1n 2012, the Lake Roosevelt Storage Releases Weber Siphon Project made it possible to move water from Lake Roosevelt south of I-90. OCR and Reclamation began work on widening the East Low Canal and installing a gate at Lind Coulee in 2013. Work begins on expanding the first of five siphons in 2014,

Opportunities

Aquifers in the Odessa Subarea are declining. Groundwater has been depleted to such an extent that water must be pumped from wells as deep as 2,400 feet.. Water pumped from such depths is hot and has high sodium concentrations. It also requires a great deal of electricity to pump it to the surface. Even deeper wells will be required as the aquifers further decline.

The economic vitality of the Odessa Subarea is at risk. It's estimated that as much as an annual $840 million and 3,600 jobs will be lost when the aquifers decline to a point at which they are is no longer usable.

Replacing groundwater withdrawals with a surface water source will ease the burden on the aquifers.

Expected Outcomes

Moving irrigators from groundwater to surface water sources will prevent  an annual $840 million and 3,600 jobs from being lost.

Documents

More Info

Legislative Directive

RCW 90.90.020 - "...(3) The department of ecology shall focus its efforts to develop water supplies for the Columbia river basin on the following needs: (a) Alternatives to groundwater for agricultural users in the Odessa subarea aquifer;"

Location

Odessa Subarea

Partner

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Economic Benefits

  • Potential $840 million 3,600 jobs loss averted

How we calculate economic benefits.