In 1979, the federal court decided that domestic water and stockwater uses were considered so small that they did not need to be regulated. Over the past 40 years, additional wells for those uses have been added and our understanding of how small uses can impact senior water rights has evolved.
The court ordered a groundwater study to better understand the connection of groundwater in the upper and lower basin and how pumping groundwater affects surface water in the creek. The study, conducted by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), found that all groundwater withdrawals in all parts of the basin influence the available surface water in Chamokane Creek.
Most summers the Spokane Tribe’s senior water right (confirmed by the court) to keep a minimum flow in the creek to protect fish isn’t met. To protect this right, the state, tribe and federal government developed the mitigation program to offset domestic and stockwater uses. The program is designed to cover the small impact most landowners in the basin will have on the instream flows of Chamokane Creek.