Oregon consortium to evaluate Umatilla Basin aquifer recovery
The Oregon Water Resources Department this week signed a $750,000 contract with an Oregon-based consortium led by IRZ Consulting, GSI Water Solutions, and HDR Engineering to evaluate the feasibility of a “Umatilla Basin Aquifer Recovery Project.”
A bill authorizing the study was approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski earlier this year.
In some parts of the Umatilla Basin, less than half of the 57,000 acres with water rights were allowed to use water in 2007, due to critical groundwater declines in the area. No other area of the state has experienced such extensive ground water shortage and curtailment. State officials say there is an immediate need to address these continuing water shortages and to provide new sources of water to users who have been curtailed.
“Through this legislation, Oregon is showing its strong commitment to address critical water needs in the Umatilla Basin,” Kulongoski said. “I championed SB 1069 as the first step on a course where we will examine water storage issues throughout Oregon.”
The Umatilla Basin Aquifer Recovery Project will investigate the potential for withdrawing surface water when it is available during the winter months, and delivering that water for storage in below-ground aquifers for use during the irrigation season. The project will identify any existing infrastructure as well as any new infrastructure necessary to implement such a project. Finally, the project will pilot test potential underground storage sites, under a limited license from the Water Resources Department.
Phil Ward, director of the Oregon Water Resources Department, indicated that “the Department is extremely pleased to have awarded this contract to an Oregon-based consortium that knows the region well, understands our goals, and is well-positioned to deliver.”
Other state agencies—the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Human Services—are involved as project design partners.