By Capt. Jay Johnston
Earlier this year, as a cost-saving measure to supplement irrigation, we reactivated a well that had been on golf course property since about 1942. Neighbors voiced concern about the possible impact that the increased water draw could have on the aquifer which also supports their private wells. Based on our permit, as of Oct. 15 we have ceased using the well for irrigation for this year and I wanted to provide everyone a year-end update on our usage in order to address the ongoing concerns.
The groundwater permit issued by Washington State Department of Ecology authorized an annual quantity of 92 acre feet, or 29.978 million gallons, between April 15 and Oct. 15 for “beneficial use” to irrigate 85 acres of the 200-acre golf course. On average, the golf course uses 10 to 12 million gallons per year to maintain the golf course. This year the Gallery Golf Course pumped 7.5 million gallons of water which was consistent with our historical usage data previously provided to the Island County Water Resources Advisory Council and concerned private citizens. Additionally, the 7.5 million gallons are well below the quantity for which the WRAC expressed concern and is significantly below the permitted amount granted by Ecology.
According to permit, “in order to protect the ground water resource, static water level in the well shall be measured quarterly each year.” In order to ensure that we were being the best possible stewards of these water resources and in deference to citizen and WRAC concerns, we chose to meticulously monitor water levels by taking measurements on a much more frequent basis.
To be extra cautious, we added our own self-imposed safety buffer above the water level at which the WDOE stated there was virtually no-chance of aquifer damage — specifically salt-water intrusion.
Although the Navy was not required by Ecology to monitor chlorides, conductivity, hardness and sodium absorption ratio, which are key indicators to sea water intrusion, periodic samples were taken and were within WDOE guidelines. Analytical data for the Gallery Golf Course well is being provided to Ecology on a monthly basis through their water resources metering database.
We feel that by utilizing this methodology of carefully monitoring the static water level and maintaining this additional safety buffer over and above what was required, we demonstrated a conservative approach to water usage, ensured the integrity of the aquifer and answered the concerns of the WRAC ad the public.
With the golf course being open to the public and one-third of our customers being non-military affiliated civilians, our efforts will enable us to continue to provide this valued recreational asset to both our military personnel and community citizens. While the use of the well is aimed at maintaining the viability of the golf course, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s commitment is to continue to be good stewards of the environment and water resources, and will absolutely ensure that conservation of the aquifer is our top priority.
Capt. Jay Johnston, U.S. Navy,
Commanding Officer,NAS Whidbey Island