Palouse Area Environmental Update

By David Hall, community member

A sustainable water supply is an important Pullman growth issue

At the Pullman Planning Commission June 28 meeting, commenters were asked what they believe are the most important growth issues Pullman is facing. Providing for a sustainable water supply was a commonly mentioned issue. (“Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Pullman residents say they want less sprawl, more green spaces, June 29, 2017.)

The second 2017 goal adopted by the Pullman City Council is to “continue to support water conservation efforts in the Palouse Region, which may include water reuse, including irrigation of City park grounds, Pullman School District grounds, and WSU green spaces and industrial applications.” (Pullman Community Update, July 2017, Adopted 2017 City Council Goals, p. 22.)

Palouse Basin aquifer report

Pullman and Washington State University pump their drinking water from the Grande Ronde aquifer. Moscow and the University of Idaho pump water from both the Grande Ronde aquifer and the shallower Wanapum aquifer. Most rural residences in the Palouse Basin get their water from shallower, recharging wells. Water levels in the Grande Ronde aquifer have been dropping about a foot a year, which is not sustainable. The Wanapum aquifer does recharge.

Pullman pumped 917 million gallons of water from the Grande Ronde aquifer in 2016. That number is lower than in 2015, but the aquifer’s level is still declining at about the same rate. Tyler Palmer, Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee technical adviser and deputy director of operations in Moscow, says that residents from around the Palouse area are using more water than the aquifers can produce.

“Water does not bleed, but it should,” Palmer says. “It’s one of those things that we take for granted” and is “probably the most critical thing we could talk about.”

(Sources: Daily Evergreen, Tracking local aquifer levels, July 5, 2017, and personal research)

 The Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee (PBAC) studies

“PBAC’s goal is to inform the community of the water situation and to find a way to keep the aquifers at a stable level.” PBAC lately has been studying the feasibility of tapping different water sources to balance aquifer use. Watch for the results of their studies, which are expected to be released shortly.

(Sources: Daily Evergreen, Tracking local aquifer levels, July 5, 2017, and personal research)

Moscow Water Quality Report (2016):

The City of Moscow has never had a sample set fail for high lead content. In 2016, the City of Moscow Water Staff took several samples from residences constructed during the period when lead was being used and all samples were below the federal action level.

Fluoridation of our drinking water

The City of Moscow Water Department does not add fluoride to our drinking water; however, there is naturally occurring fluoride in the water and some wells have more than others. (Source: personal communication)

The City of Pullman Water Department does add fluoride to its water.

Farmers/Growers Markets (weekly)

The Moscow Food Co-op was instrumental in starting the Moscow Farmers Market and the Moscow Growers Market (which until recently was held seasonally in the Moscow Food Co-op parking lot).

  • Moscow Growers Market: Tuesdays 4 to 6:30 p.m. through September. 1104 Pullman Road (Tri-State Outfitters Parking Lot) (Palouse Grow Market:
  • Pullman Farmers Market: Wednesdays 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. 240 NE Kamiaken (Spot Shop parking lot)
  • Moscow Farmers Market: Saturdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October. Main Street (Sixth to Third Streets and Friendship Square). Food, craft, vendors, live music. (City of Moscow)

A little further afield:

  • Clarkston Farmers Market: Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon. 900 Fifth Street (Twin River National Bank parking lot)
  • Grangeville Farmers Market: Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Main Street (Pioneer Park)
  • Orofino Farmers Market: Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 101 Michigan Avenue (Orofino City Park)
  • The One Sky One Earth Farmer’s Market: Thursdays 4 to 7 p.m. through September. Highway 95 next to Gateway Café.


  • Friends of the Clearwater Annual Hot Summer Days Community Barbecue: Friday August 25, 5:30 to 7:30 pm, East City Park picnic shelter. “Meat and vegetarian burgers provided, bring a side dish.” (FOC newsletter)
  • Third Annual Free the Snake flotilla: Saturday September 9, Chief Timothy Park, Clarkston, Washington. Bring kayaks, canoes, rafts, SUPs (stand-up paddleboards), motorboats, and other watercraft. Food, live music, and guest speakers. Camping available Friday and Saturday nights. Sponsored by Friends of the Clearwater, Save Our Wild Salmon, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, Idaho Rivers United, Earthjustice, Patagonia, and others. Check out (FOC newsletter)
  • Twelfth annual Palouse Basin Watershed Summit, Early October. will be updated as details settle.


David Hall is a board member of Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, Palouse Prairie Foundation, and Palouse Water Conservation Network.