City allocates $50,000 for groundwater modeling

The Port Orchard City Council voted last week to invest $50,000 over the next five years towards an extensive groundwater model of the Kitsap Peninsula.

The project will cost around $1.4 million total, according to those involved.

Half the money will come from the federal government, and the rest will be funded by around 12 local cities and other groups, most with water-purveying interests.

The groups plan to contribute between $5,000 per year and $20,000 per year for each of the next five years.

Port Orchard will contribute $10,000 per year.

There were efforts to say that groups should fund the project in proportion to the amount of water they’d use, but that discussion “soon became a little too awkward,” said Martin Sebren, a hydrologist who works for Kitsap County Public Utility District No. 1.

Instead, the groups decided to give money to a common funding pot for the project.

The project could interest several groups.

For example, local tribes might want more detailed, accurate information about their streams, because they have an inherent right over them.

Drinking water providers might want to use the information to ensure that seawater intrusion doesn’t contaminate their water sources.

When it’s completed, the model could give those groups a more accurate picture of the groundwater system, which they could use to predict the impacts of their decisions on local groundwater.

“It’s like how we manage our forests now,” said Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s public works director. “We have to think of our aquifers as our most renewable resource, and we need to protect it.”

The model could help leaders answer questions about local groundwater, including:

• How could climate change impact water availability?

• How much groundwater is available to the area?

• How will future growth affect water supplies?

• How are local aquifers connected?

“The groundwater study is looking at groundwater levels,” Dorsey said, “the soils the bay, everything that affects and influences the flow of water and what we’re doing to our aquifirs as we pump.

“This groundwater study,” he said, “will increase our ability to understand our resources and make sure that, when we pump water out of the ground, there aren’t unintended consequences.”

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