New Eastern Washington Feedlot to Potentially Draw a Million Gallons of Water a Day from Aquifer

There is a water battle brewing in Eastern Washington north of Pasco and it looks like the feedlots are winning. As E&E publishing reports it;

At issue is a proposal by Easterday Ranches Inc. to build a feedlot for30,000 head of cattle that would withdraw a shade under 1 million gallons a day from the ancient Grande Ronde Aquifer during the driest months of the year. The proposal has touched off a wave of concern among local farmers, prompting Collins and about 20 of his neighbors to form the nonprofit Five Corners Family Farmers to fight the feedlot project and others that might come along behind it.

The new feedlot is taking advantage of an outdated state statute that allows ranchers and feedlots to draw an unlimited amount of water for livestock. The owner, Cody Easterday, has estimated that the ranch will draw 300,000 gallons of water a day. I called Cody Easterday this morning to clarify if indeed during the hot summer months they will draw close to a million gallons of water per day, but he had not comment.

The lawsuit brought by other farmers in the area was thrown out by a Franklin county judge last week based on the "clear and unambigous" nature of the statute. It was originally written to accomodate the water needs of small family farms, not big feedlot operations.

E& E reports;

The groundwater problems in eastern Washington are among the most serious in the country, in part because the region is among the driest in the country, averaging about 7 inches of rainfall a year.

In Franklin County, the aquifer is receding about a foot a year, while groundwater levels in neighboring Whitman County groundwater are declining at an even faster rate of 1.5 feet per year.

A state-funded study released in January found that the deep aquifer in eastern Washington -- especially Franklin, Adams, Grant and Lincoln counties -- are in serious trouble because "a significant percentage" of the area's wells are tapping into the deepest part of the aquifer, where the water is 10,000 years old and is not recharged by surface water, said Paul Stoker, executive director of the four-county Columbia Basin Groundwater Management Area, which conducted the study...

The Easterday Ranch's feedlot is proposed near the southern boundary of the Odessa Aquifer, which Slattery described in his November letter as perhaps "the most critical water supply shortage in the state."