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Researchers explore groundwater as a future solution for drought, development and other water needs

The Montana Public Affairs Network
Ginette Abdo speaks to lawmakers at the January meeting of the Water Policy Interim Committee.

Drought and population growth are depleting underground pockets of water already in high demand for uses like drinking water, irrigation and conservation.

Water stored underground could provide a path forward.

Researchers with the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology presented to the Water Policy Interim Committee last month on efforts to map areas in the state where water users could intentionally fill natural aquifers to tap during drier times.

Ground Water Investigation Program Manager Ginette Abdo said the right characteristics need to line up for aquifers to qualify.

“Looking at the different criteria, we have the geology, we know about the soils. So, we have some of the criteria that we need to do this,” Abdo told lawmakers. “For aquifer storage and recovery, the state has less information, at least on a statewide basis.”

She said existing data makes the Flathead and Gallatin valleys prime areas for examining potential aquifer storage and getting an idea of what mapping could look like in other parts of the state.

“And I know, the Gallatin area, they’re looking to expand with all the growth that's going on there, and so there’s growth and there’s data,” said Abdo.

According to the state’s drought management plan, research into aquifer storage and recovery as an approach to drought resilience drew widespread support from stakeholders and public commenters.

Abdo said some information should be ready for public review this summer.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.