Dave Nazy, a hydrogeologist with the Washington Department of Ecology, talks about the connection among aquifers at an educational forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clallam County. Sequim Gazette photo by Amanda Winters
by AMANDA WINTERS
Three presenters focused on how and why residents of the Dungeness Valley should conserve water at an Oct. 18 educational forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clallam County.
The forum was the second part of the Managing Our Water series; the first part was in August. The purpose of the forums was to educate people about the unique water challenges presented in the Dungeness watershed and how to address them, league officials said.
The presenters were Dave Nazy, a hydrogeologist with the Washington Department of Ecology; Joe Holtrop, district manager of the Clallam Conservation District; and Janet Nazy, executive director of the Partnership for Water Conservation.
Outlining the problem
Dave Nazy started the evening with a presentation on studies of the Dungeness watershed. He said groundwater is just a small component of the valley's water supply.
Three aquifers, remnants of long-ago glaciers, sit below the surface, he said. Lying in layers separated by various kinds of sediment, the aquifers are tapped by wells drilled to provide water on the surface, he said.
The level of river flow is determined by snow melt and precipitation.
"You can see over the last 50 years the snowpack is about half what it was," he said, showing a graph of snowpack levels. "This is kind of concerning."
The level of water in the aquifers also has dropped, at a rate of 1.5 feet per year from 1996-2002, he said.
"This is something to worry about," he said, adding it showed a connection among all three aquifers.
Nazy said Ecology has a model to predict water levels in the aquifers based on data gathered from wells. Most wells are dug in the top aquifer layer, he said.
According to the model, the deeper the well is dug the less impact it will have on the river, which is important to consider since hundreds of wells a year have been dug in the valley since the mid-1990s, he said.
How to conserve
Holtrop and Janet Nazy spoke on conserving water, with Holtrop's focus on outdoor conservation and Nazy's on indoor conservation.
Holtrop said most water in the Dungeness Valley is used to irrigate crops and most of that water comes from the river, he said. More than 170 miles of ditches and pipelines carry the water to irrigate 6,000 acres, he said.
While 60 percent of the irrigation water still travels through ditches, which causes a large amount of water to be lost to seepage, piping efforts have increased over the past five years, he said.
The conservation district helps irrigators install pipes, funded by grants, to replace the ditches. More than 35 miles of ditches have been piped over the past 10 years, saving 4,600 acre-feet of water per year, he said.
Aside from helping irrigators save water, the conservation district has educational courses, presentations and workshops on how to establish a natural yard landscape to maximize water conservation, he said.
He gave a 15-minute overview of the course, emphasizing the importance of minimizing the size of the lawn, cutting down on watering and maintenance, and maximizing the use of native plants.
Janet Nazy suggested drip irrigation or installing a smart controller, which will factor weather into the irrigation schedule of a yard.
"If the ground is wet enough, it won't water," she said.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.