Pullman’s water table is sinking. This is not new news. Pullman’s population is growing rapidly and we are going to be hard-pressed to keep up the needed level of goods and services if we are going to thrive. It is long past time to give serious consideration to updating our capacity to provide these needs before it is too late. Pullman has long past the day when our water shot out of the ground from a natural artesian well located near the northwest corner of Kamiakin and Davis Way.
The geologic reasons for this are complicated, as are our layers of basalt, clay and loess below the city. Moscow gets its water from a different aquifer and drills into layers of limestone as well. It is enough to know that we are using water at a much faster rate than it is being replenished by natural means like rain.
The bottom line is that we all need to do more to conserve this essential-to-life resource. So how do we do this? I’ve already made one major change in my water use by xeriscaping my yard with a layer of gravel over landscape cloth instead of grass which never grew well here anyway. My yard sits on a two-foot layer of hard pan over basalt. When we added 10 feet onto the back of our house, they had to scribe the bottom of the wood forms for the footings to fit over the irregularities in the top surface of ledge, which fortunately is basically level. Over that I have about two and a half feet of hardpan with less than 6 inches of soil of any kind, mostly clay, to garden on.
Taking out the grass reduced my water usage considerably but I’ve done even more over the years. When some remaining plants need more water to survive, I use soaker hoses when I can to reduce evaporation. Where I have irrigation installed, it is timed to run at night, also to reduce evaporation. I extended the length of that this past spring to cover more flower beds.
I installed low-flow shower heads and at least one low-flow toilet in the most-used one of three bathrooms in my house. I make sure I’m washing a full load in my dishwasher and clothes washers when I use them.
I do some pretreating of dishes, but when I do, I pour water from one dish to another rather than run water separately for each.
Pullman is built on springs. When we built our new house (not my present one) in the 1940’s my dad was digging out for the footings for the basement, he encountered a spring. We had to install draining pipes to a sump that drained into the storm sewer. If that had happened today when we are more eco friendly, I’m sure we would have found a way to harness that water to irrigate our yard. I could do the same with the sump in my crawl space, except that it doesn’t run fast enough for that to be an option. The sump itself sits on bed rock and is only about two inches deep. I rarely hear the pump turn on any more, but I’m sure that there are others in Pullman who have a similar situation where this source of water could find good use.
One thing I still need to do is restore the levels of bark mulch on my flower beds to reduce evaporation. I had some good levels once but that breaks down with time and becomes more like sawdust that mixes with the soil.
There are other means of saving water such as choosing drought-tolerant plantings and timing water use to reduce evaporation. If all property owners took these suggestions to heart, we could greatly reduce our city’s water use and stop the lowering of water levels in our aquifer. I urge everyone to consider these suggestions.
Harding lives in Pullman and is a longtime League of Women Voters member. She also has served on the Gladish Community and Cultural Center board. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.