Airway Heights’ water reclamation well is up and running, giving the city a sustainable source of water into the future.
The well came online Wednesday, June 26 and has been performing just as expected for the city, and marks the beginning of the end of a string of public works upgrades in the city.
“The project is nearing completion,” City Manager Albert Tripp said. “We expect it to be finished before the end of August.”
As a result of the well’s completion, Airway Heights has a water consumption footprint of nearly zero.
“We’re 100 percent green around here,” Tripp said regarding the city’s water status. “From every drop that we utilize to the treatment of it, 100 percent of it is green; it’s recyclable. There’s nothing lost.”
Working with a 400-horsepower pump, the well has a maximum capacity of 3,200 gallons per minute, although that exceeds the city’s water rights for the well, public works director Kelly Williquette said. Right now, the city can produce instantaneously 2,300 gallons per minute. The well itself has a depth of 260 feet, and was drilled by Blue Star. Spokane’s L&L Cargile did the development work on the well, which has been running for a good three weeks.
The well, located about a quarter of a mile from the wastewater treatment plant, was built in part to replace the Parkwest well to the south of the city. Parkwest came under fire in recent years, being called the reason for lower water levels in other regional wells despite operating at reduced capacity throughout the time it supplied Airway Heights with water. The city transferred water rights from the Parkwest well to this new recovery well during the construction process.
Additionally, the city took some extra measures to ensure that the location for a new well wasn’t going to interfere with other water supplies.
“It was strategically selected in part from the overall recommendation project from the very start,” Tripp said. “We were going to do a recovery well independent of the Parkwest well from the very beginning when we started the reclamation facility.”
As a result of the project’s completion, Tripp said sewer rate reductions are on their way, since the city is now independent for water recovery. The City Council last discussed rate reductions nearly half a year ago when forming its budget for this year.
“The water reclamation plant was designed and constructed to stabilize our sewer rates,” Tripp said.
Rates increased in the surrounding area as a result of the Spokane River cleanup effort, and changed regularly.
“Today (we’re) holding true to those goals,” Tripp said.
The second purpose of the well was to create an alternative water source for the city, one that would be sustainable for a very long time. With the well now operational, Tripp estimates that the city is set for the next several decades before another major upgrade is needed in the public works infrastructure.
The wastewater treatment plant has been in operation for the last year, following a grand opening ceremony in 2012. Currently operating at a fraction of its full capacity, the treatment plant also has the ability to handle future population growth in the city.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.