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Aquifer Recharge Season: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Staff Photo
by Washington Water Trust

Written by Emily Dick, WWT Project Manager

In the area surrounding the City of Sequim on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Washington Water Trust (WWT) has the opportunity to “give back” to the rivers, streams, and wells of local residents every year from May 15th-July 15th. As a project manager at WWT, I balance the Dungeness Water Exchange, a program which provides new homes a complete offset to their water use. In other words, what they take out of the ground, we put back in to restore groundwater, and in turn, the levels of nearby rivers and streams – in this case, the Dungeness River and its tributaries. This process requires a rather complex series of tasks and thus requires support from numerous partners. For example, Clallam Conservation District manages the construction and design of the offset projects, referred to in the field as “Aquifer Recharge Sites,” and the local irrigation districts and companies use their existing pipes and ditches to carry the offset water to the aquifer recharge sites, and manage the flow and maintenance involved with operation.

An aquifer recharge site is designed to allow water to seep back into the ground and streams “recharging” what has been taken by new domestic wells in the area. I love watching the water return to where it is needed as the recharge sites are turned on every year on May 15th (and sometimes earlier if the river is high enough). Most often, our impacts on the environment are felt most acutely by our local small streams. Aquifer recharge is our chance to restore water levels locally. In the Dungeness Water Exchange we strategically recharge water at specific sites across the basin allowing us to reach the areas being impacted by new development. As I arrive to the “thunderous” pour of a recharge site, I am uplifted and inspired by the volume of water we can move and restore together. Nearing the end of the recharge channel, the water flows slower and slower along its path as it disappears into the earth. I can’t help but feel that we are finally returning the favor to our waterways for all they have provided us since last summer. It is our thank you. It is the most wonderful time of the year!