Aquifers - Our Source of Drinking Water

The City of Vancouver gets its drinking water, or potable water, from three distinctly different regional aquifers.

The upper two aquifers -- the Orchards Aquifer (Upper and Lower) and the Upper Troutdale Aquifer – are the principal municipal water supply aquifers in Clark County. Where these two shallow aquifers are not present, the deeper Sand-and-Gravel Aquifer is a significant source of groundwater. The Sand-and-Gravel Aquifer also is a source of supply for several City of Vancouver and Clark Public Utilities wells, in addition to other regional municipalities and industries.

The City's Utility tracks water consumption and levels closely at all well stations, as required by state law. In addition, the Utility keeps a close eye on yearly rainfall averages, which are important to recharging our aquifers. Here is some additional information about these important aquifers upon which we depend for our drinking water:

  • The Upper Orchards Aquifer is recharged primarily by infiltration of rainfall. As a result, the quantity of water available from the aquifer on a sustainable basis is dependent on the local precipitation pattern. Levels in this aquifer are closely monitored.
  • The Lower Orchards Aquifer supports wells at three of the City’s highest volume production water stations. The water levels in this aquifer are slightly above sea level and close to the stage height of the Columbia River. The Columbia River is believed to provide downstream hydraulic stability for the Lower Orchards Aquifer, and the potential yield from properly located well fields in the Lower Orchards Aquifer is strongly drought-resistant. Historically, water levels in this aquifer fluctuate very little, even under heavy use. Since construction of the City's oldest wells in the 1940s, static water levels have shown little or no decline.
  • The Upper Troutdale Aquifer is recharged from a downward movement of groundwater from the overlying aquifers, including Upper Orchards Aquifer. Well yields in the Upper Troutdale Aquifer are typically lower than those for the Orchards aquifers.
  • The Sand-and-Gravel Aquifer is a deep aquifer that underlies a large portion of the greater Vancouver area. It has a massive volume of stored water, and is believed to receive recharge via infiltration from shallower aquifers and perhaps directly from the Columbia River, some distance upstream of the City.

The City of Vancouver is committed to ensuring our water resources are used efficiently to protect and preserve the high quality of life of current residents and generations to come.

Vancouver's Water Utility takes a comprehensive approach to water use efficiency that combines system design, engineering and operations, with community education and outreach.

Through Public Works programs and services, the City provides many excellent community resources to promote sustainable, best practices. This includes using drip irrigation, watering less often but more deeply to encourage root growth, checking and fixing leaks in household plumbing, and more.

Explore our water webpages to learn more about conservation and water use efficiency.

Visit the Water Resources Education Center, created to promote stewardship and help people of all ages learn how to use our natural resources wisely.