Water study’s flow deepens

On Bainbridge Island, it’s water, water everywhere. But is it quality and not polluted, polluted everyplace? And what about the quality and quantity of the island’s groundwater? What is its recharge rate? Such questions – and many, many more – are at the heart of the ongoing pilot study of the city’s water resources.

The four-year study is going well at its halfway point, says Jayln Cummings, the city water specialist who is involved in it. The annual Water Resources Open House is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. Oct. 21 in City Hall, and Cummings promises this third rendition of the event will be better than ever because there will be more critical information released about the state of island water.

Several consultants are expected to speak, as will members of the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS will make a presentation involving the numeric groundwater model that is currently being developed as more and more data is being collected to be fed into it. Eventually, the model will also allow the city to predict fluctuations in the aquifers so it can manage the island’s water resources based on a thorough knowledge of groundwater and surface flows.

It’s an exciting prospect considering the importance of the city and its residents being knowledgeable about the island’s water capabilities at a time when it is still in a heavy development phase. Obviously, it is critical for us to know the amount of water that is down there and how to manage it in a way that induces a healthy rate of recharge. The data that will eventually be fed into the groundwater model is now being collected through 16 monitoring stations island-wide that measures the flow and withdraw that occurs, and how that affects streams and nearby wells. Some 72 wells also are monitored during a five-day period each month.

The USGS will ask the city to ask six questions – specific, but comprehensive enough to address island-wide water issues – that can be fed into its numeric groundwater model. The answers will hopefully allow the city to accurately predict aquifer fluctuations and their effects on nearby wells and and streams, for example.

Another important aspect of the study is surface pollution, primarily metals and fecal coliform. Kitsap County Health Department and the city have identified several failed septic systems, most of which are being replaced and cleaned up – primarily in Fletcher Bay and Eagle Harbor. Cummings said more state grants are coming to help identify “hot spots” that have been discovered primarily in heavy drainage areas, including the Eagle Harbor core, Murden Cove and Fletcher Bay.

Whether it’s coming from seepage or pipes, the fecal coliform (animal and human waste) and metals (zinc and lead from the roads) are obviously caused by human activity that isn’t going to abate anytime soon. With the ultimate hope of capturing the pollution and cleaning up the areas involved, monitoring stations will help identify the sources to some degree, but the study also will include having people searching out and tracking that hot spots are less obvious than the Brien-Bjune outfall and nearby ravine.

The study is important because of the large amount of shoreline and the uniqueness of Bainbridge.

Most important, of course, is that it will give islanders a tool they can use to ensure that the city’s most important natural resource isn’t polluted or diminished. Nothing less than the island’s survival as a lush, healthy environment is at stake.

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