Environmental History 
of the Spokane River

History of the Aquifer


The Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer (SVRP) was discovered in 1895, but created by events such as Ice Ages tens of thousands of years ago. Floods caused deposits of gravel and rock that formed the aquifer. Thousands of years later the aquifer was accidentally discovered when the Upriver Dam was constructed in Spokane. Before the discovery of the aquifer, water was procured from lakes, rivers, and springs so people had to live close to a water source. The Spokane River provides water to the aquifer, as well as the aquifer providing water to the river in a continuous cycle. The water from the aquifer is then used for drinking water for citizens in the community.

By 1908 construction by the Spokane Valley Irrigation District to build irrigation from the aquifer had finished, and the aquifer became the main source of drinking water for Spokane instead of the Spokane River. The aquifer is now the only source of water for most people in Spokane County, Washington and Kootenai County, Idaho. Studies in the early 1900s found the water from the aquifer to be some of the cleanest in the world, but later studies found the aquifer contained pollution. A mixture of the permeable flood deposits and a thin topsoil layer made the SVRP aquifer susceptible to pollution.

In the 1970s users of the aquifer began taking steps to protect and clean the SVRP aquifer. The SVRP aquifer was designated as a sole source aquifer by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which contributed the the management and regulations of the aquifer

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