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News Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

Release: March 18, 2009
Dave Morgan

Rick Dinicola

Water levels drop; scientists search for answers

[Editors: More information about the ground water study is at .]

Ground water levels in some areas of the Columbia Plateau have dropped by more than 300 feet since 1985, and USGS scientists are measuring water levels in wells in March and April as part of a major study to find out what’s happening to this important water supply.

USGS crews will measure water levels in over 100 water wells throughout the 50,000-square-mile region to get a clear "snapshot" of current ground water levels and determine how they have changed over the past 25 years. The measurements will add to ongoing monitoring by the USGS and other Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies.

"We'll be working in the basin for about four weeks," said Dave Morgan, USGS hydrologist and study leader. "The measurements are part of a major study of the Columbia Plateau aquifer system, which stretches across parts of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon."

To get an accurate, scientific assessment of the Columbia Plateau's ground water, as many well measurements as possible are needed. The USGS is asking individual well owners to help out by allowing their wells' water level to be measured.

"Well owners play a big part in getting an accurate assessment," Morgan said. "Information from their wells is critical to estimating the total ground water available to water users throughout the Plateau."

Information on the Columbia Plateau Ground Water Availability study can be accessed at

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