Drinking Water

Much of the drinking water in this area, including all of the City’s, comes from wells extracting water from the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. This water is high quality and is treated only with chlorine disinfectant before distribution.

Our drinking water quality is regulated by both Federal and State rules. Check out these links to the EPA for Federal rules and for information on the Department of Health’s program.

Water purveyors regularly test water quality and a number participate with Spokane County in an aquifer monitoring program. City Environmental Programs produces an annual Technical Water Quality & Quantity Report which summarizes the latest City data.  The 2010 Technical Water Quality and Quantity Report provides background on previous testing. These documents help guide future testing and meet the City’s obligation to provide this water quality data to those water systems to whom the City wholesales drinking water. The City Water Department annually reports water quality to its customers via a consumer confidence report.

Spokane County has been monitoring aquifer water quality since 1977 and the latest report is posted on their website. A regional planning process resulted in the Aquifer protection program that began in 1979 with the finalization of the Spokane Aquifer Water Quality Management Plan. In the City this document is still the foundation for much of the Aquifer protection policy and regulation.

The City is also involved in protecting our drinking water and its source, the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. There are regulations on critical materials storage and use, Critical Materials Handbook.pdf . Check here to see if you have a critical material Critical Materials List Final 20100201c.xls .

The County and City method of treating stormwater via “208”swales as called for in the Spokane Aquifer Water Quality Management Plan has subsequently been incorporated into the newer Eastern Washington Stormwater Manualas a pre-approved best management practice. Additional improvements in stormwater handling have been addressed in the adopted Regional Stormwater Manual.

The City of Spokane is also working with other local water purveyors and governments to protect drinking water wells. See this Spokane Aquifer Joint Board document of water purveyor desires regarding wellhead protection.  To better inform the deliberations of the Wellhead Protection Policy Coordinating Committee and as a foundation for wellhead protection plan update  the City of Spokane and the SAJB retained Groundwater Solutions Inc. to:  a) evaluate recharge facility effects on source water protection areas and groundwater quality (Task 1 Memorandum);  b)  update the groundwater model and expand the model into Idaho (Task 2 memorandum);   c)  replicate Special Wellhead Protection Area Delineation; and d)  document modeling methodology appropriate for future delineations (Task 3 memorandum). This work was made possible by a Washington State Dept. of Health Source Water Protection grant, funding from the Spokane Aquifer Joint Board, and support from City of Spokane Division of Utilities.  The Wellhead Protection Policy Coordinating Committee is developing a list of recommendations based on the Spokane Aquifer Joint Board’s desires regarding wellhead protection

Using our water wisely is important. The State of Washington has rules on water use efficiencyand the City reports annually on our status.  Here are the 2009,  2010  and 2011 reports.

Water Resources

Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer

As mentioned above the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer is a significant regional resource.

The Aquifer Atlas is a great way to learn about the aquifer.

In 2008 the Bi-State Aquifer Study model report was published along with two supporting studies. The model and other study data are available from Idaho Department of Water Resources. The USGS has gathered many other technical studies of the Aquifer performed over the years.

The City has several regulations and initiatives aimed at protecting this resource. In addition to the critical materials ordinances mentioned above the City also has regulations governing Underground Storage Tanks (UST) and Above Ground Storage Tanks (AST). The Spokane Fire Department issues permits for both UST and AST.

The improper disposal of common household chemicals such as anti freeze, motor oil and paint poses a threat to the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. The Spokane Regional Solid Waste System has Household Hazardous Waste collection facilities at the Waste to Energy plant and two transfer stations.

Spokane River

The Spokane River is the centerpiece of the Spokane environment. It is intricately linked to the Spokane Aquifer providing seasonal ground water recharge and in turn being sustained by the Aquifer in the heat of summer. For people the River provides aesthetic and recreational opportunities. Its power has been harnessed by seven hydroelectric dams providing clean electric power. The River also has been called upon to carry unwanted wastes and salts to the ocean thereby making wastewater treatment less expensive.

The City has participated with the Department of Ecology and other wastewater dischargers in discussions about Total Maximum Daily Loadings to the River. The City and other dischargers produced a Use Attainability Study regarding Lake Spokane dissolved oxygen levels and phosphorus discharges.

The setting of a minimum instream flow for the Spokane River has been discussed at local watershed planning meetings without consensus being reached. These papers record the positions taken by City staff in those discussions: Most recent July 2010; May 2008; Initial position Jan 2008.

Check here for current river flow at the Spokane gage and here for the annual minimum flow or here to see seasonal variation.

This is an overview of local instream flow development.

Check out thisAvista site for information on hydroelectric dams.

For more information on the Spokane River and its tributaries including updates on TMDLs visit the Department of Ecology.

Latah / Hangman Creek

The lower Latah Creek basin is a geologically complex area experiencing relatively rapid development. The seasonally “flashy” creek is constrained by a State Highway and steep hillsides of varying stability. Since most of this watershed is at relatively low elevation as compared to other local streams, it frequently is the first to reach flood stage and is more frequently influenced by rain on snow events.

The Spokane County Conservation District has done a lot of work in this drainage basin and leads the Watershed Planning process (see below). A minimum instream flow for Hangman Creek has been a topic of discussion at the watershed planning meetings. Department of Ecology staff and City Environmental Programs staff reached tentative agreementon language thought to meet other participant’s desires in 2008. The Planning Unit so far has not made a consensus minimum instream flow recommendation.

Little Spokane River

The Little Spokane lies just to the North of the City of Spokane. This stream provides limited but significant recreational opportunities and priceless habitat. The lower portion of the Little Spokane River receives significant in-flow from the Spokane Aquifer. The Little Spokane has had a minimum instream flow set by the State since 1976


Wetlands in the City have been identified and are protected under the Critical Areas zoning. The Planning Department identifies and enforces the ordinance protecting wetlands in the City.

Permitted Facilities

Upriver Dam

The City’s Upriver Dam Hydroelectric Facility provides power for drinking water pumping. Excess power is currently sold to Avista. This facility is permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility (RPWRF)

RPWRFs Federal & State wastewater treatment NPDES permit covers discharges from the plant into the Spokane River. In addition the permit covers untreated discharges into the River from the wastewater collection system that occur when stormwater surcharges the piping system to the point of exceeding it’s capacity. These latter discharges and discharge points are referred to as combined sewer overflow (CSO) events and outfalls.

Stormwater Facilities

Besides the combined wastewater-stormwater system, the City has a Federal & State NPDES Phase II stormwater permit for stormwater collected and piped directly to surface waters. Another stormwater system currently in use here involves discharge to ground whether directly or through grassy infiltration swales. These latter facilities are covered under the State’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) regulations and State Waste Discharge Permits.

Northside Landfill

The City has two old landfills that have been covered to prevent stormwater from leaching through and carrying contaminants out. These landfills had impacted local groundwater and monitoring and controls remain in place to minimize future impacts. The landfills are regulated under the Spokane Regional Health District’s solid waste permitting authorities and come under State & Federal regulation as well. The Northside Landfill has a modern, lined waste containment cell which was constructed as the old landfill was closed and is currently in active use. It primarily serves to take wastes which are not appropriate for, or otherwise not able to go to the Waste-to-Energy Facility.

Shoreline Management

The City has recently updated the Shoreline Management Plan & regulations. This land-use control is enforced by the Planning Department through building and site development regulation. The Plan strives to balance the competing interests of individual property rights and the environment as required by State law. Visit the Shoreline Master Program


Stormwater is handled through three primary means in the City: discharged to the wastewater sewers, discharged to the river, or discharged to the ground. Combined sewer overflow, Stormwater NPDES Phase II permit, and Underground Injection Control with State Waste Discharge Permitting are the regulatory controls. Visit the City of Spokane Stormwater Management

Watershed Planning

There are four State defined Watershed Planning areas, also referred to as Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs), containing portions of the City: The Little Spokane WRIA 55, being planned with the Middle Spokane WRIA 57; Hangman/Latah Creek WRIA 56, and the Lower Spokane WRIA 54. Water quantity, water quality, and minimum in-stream flows are the key planning topics.

Visit the Department of Ecology to learn more about state watershed planning.