Kent Water Supply Steady Despite Dry, Hot Summer
Levels in Kent's underground aquifers say drought has had little effect
It's been a dry, hot summer, but you wouldn't know it if you looked inside Kent's underground water aquifers.
John Cordier, the chief operator of Kent's Water Treatment Plant, said during the last big drought in Kent the surface water level in the city's monitoring well dropped to between 30 and 35 feet below the ground. This year, the monitoring well has stayed steady at about 20 feet.
"So it hasn’t hit us as hard as the last drought did," he said.
The city's water wells are located in the Breakneck Creek Well Field near the city's northeastern edge. Kent maintains four wells to tap into the aquifers and produce potable water for drinking, showering and other uses across the city.
The aquifers are located deep within sandstone formations underground, and the permeable sandstone lets rain water filter through to recharge the source.
Cordier attributes the good water levels in Kent's aquifers to the near record-breaking amounts of rain that hit Kent last year.
"Last year it really recharged the aquifer," Cordier said.
If heavy rains one year mean the aquifer will be full for the comming year, then little to no rain in one summer could lead to lower levels the following year.
"We’ve just been fortunate," Cordier said. "It will be interesting to see what happens next year."
Another factor in Kent's abundant water supply this year has to do with technology.
Kent Service Director Gene Roberts said this year the city started using a relatively new practice of cleaning the well heads that increases a well's production.
Roberts said the city used a high pressure nitrogen injection to clean the screen at the base of one of its well pipes. The high-velocity nitrogen burst also cleared out the rock and sandstone at the base of the aquifer to increase its recharge and production rates.
Previously, city workers would use a brush to rake soil particles, magnesium, iron and other elements in the water from the screens at the base of each well pipe.
"Where we couldn’t reach with a mechanical brush, now the shot of nitrogen is going back into the aquifer stone and cleaning the rock that we could never touch before," Roberts said. "Our production rates in that well have almost doubled."
The city will likely start cleaning one well a year on a four-year rotating basis or as needed based on production rates.
Lastly, a dip in demand for water in Kent and the push towards more efficient toilets, shower heads and appliances means Kent households and business are simply using less water and therefore putting less of a demand on the city's water wells.
"We’re down 25 percent on water consumption," Roberts said. "Most of that is based on the fact that we’re seeing less water used for typical potable water needs."