Report highlights groundwater decline in Columbia

A new report shows that groundwater levels in wells drilled in the arid Columbia Plateau are declining nearly 2 feet per year on average.

The report released Tuesday by the U.S. Geological Survey examines well levels in the plateau that crosses parts of Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

Scientists compiled data about water levels in 60,000 wells in the area. The report concludes that nearly three-fourths of all wells, or 72 percent, declined from 1968 to 2009. The average rate of change for all wells was 1.9 feet per year of decline.

Declining groundwater levels in several Northwest aquifers have long been a source of concern.

Last year, Washington officials warned that 25 communities in the Columbia River basin could have their municipal wells go dry as soon as a decade.