My Aquifer > Aquifer Protection in the LPRV > What is a Sensitive Resource aquifer?


For these reasons, the agreements and management methods that were developed and adopted by communities and jurisdictions on the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer comprise a valuable template for other Idaho communities considering enhanced ways to improve ground water protection.

Through efforts of the Panhandle Health District, Idaho DEQ, the EPA, and state and congressional appropriations, the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer was designated in 1980 as a Special Resource Water under state Water Quality Standards and Wastewater Treatment Standards. Through this designation, citizens and officials have worked to develop and adopt an integrated protection program. Because of its status, the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer became the only aquifer in Idaho to be classified in the Sensitive Resource category when the state Ground Water Quality Rule (GWQ Rule) was promulgated.

Under the GWQ Rule, by default all Idaho aquifers are classified in the General Resource category. Only through a petition to DEQ can an aquifer be reclassified from the General category into the more stringent Sensitive Resource category or into the less strict Other Resource category. In principal, the intent of recategorization is to achieve a level of protection which is best suited to the identified beneficial uses which an aquifer is deemed to provide. To achieve the Sensitive designation, for example, more strict numeric water quality standards (lower allowable concentration limits) and / or narrative standards (water quality goals and protection intent) are established, with which to maintain or improve existing water quality, using a combination of best management methods and best available management practices.

The advantages to recategorization to a Sensitive Resource as a means of achieving protection is that it enables a jurisdiction or a collective to identify: a) what type of ground water protection is needed and feasible for their site-specific hydrologic, economic, and resource management conditions; b) cooperatively develop management tools to achieve that level of protection; and c) to implement and enforce those tools uniformly across an agreed management area. for the long-term.

Although a state-sanctioned mechanism such as Sensitive Resource reclassification is not necessary to achieve protection, a less formal agreement among local jurisdictions may make it more difficult to ensure both long-term and uniform enforcement of the necessary protective regulations across the management area and beyond changes in political leadership.

The principal drawbacks to recategorization are economic and hence political. For example, it will cost more to control sewage impacts from homes built outside city limits (by requiring connection to municipal sewer services or installation of enhanced sewage treatment systems, or requiring fuel storage facilities to build enhanced containment systems (e.g. double-walled tanks, lined fuel containment structures). Although such measures will provide long-term benefits by reducing future remediation costs for ground water contamination, assigning economic value to such future benefits is difficult.