The Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie aquifer is composed of unconsolidated Quaternary glaciofluvial deposits underlying an area of about 350 square miles. Transmissivities in the aquifer range from about 0.13 million to 11 million feet squared per day and ground-water velocities exceed 60 feet per day in some areas. The water-table gradient ranges from about 2 feet per mile to more than 60 feet per mile, and during a year the water table fluctuates on the order of 5 to 10 feet. For most of the aquifer the water table is between 40 and 400 feet below land surface. The aquifer is recharged and discharged at an average rate of about 1,320 cubic feet per second.
Water is presently (1976) pumped from the aquifer at an average rate of about 239 cubic feet per second for domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses. Most of this is discharged to the Spokane River, lost to evapotranspiration, or applied to the land surface with little or no change in quality. However, about 34 cubic feet per second becomes waste water generated by domestic and industrial activities and is returned to the aquifer by percolation from cesspools and drain fields.
The quality of water in the aquifer is generally good. Less than one-half of 1 percent of the 3,300 analyses available exceeded the maximum contaminant levels specified in the National Interim Primary (or Proposed Secondary) Drinking Water Regulations (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1975) for constituents which may be hazardous to health. Of the 6,300 analyses for constituents considered detrimental to the esthetic quality of water, about 1.4 percent have yielded values which exceeded the recommended levels.
Alternative water sources for the area supplied by the aquifer are the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers, lakes adjacent to the aquifer, and other aquifers. All of these potential sources are less desirable than the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie aquifer because of insufficient supplies, poor water quality, and (or) remoteness from the areas of need.