How Does Water Get Clean? Let’s Explore Spokane

Written By Mason Neil, Youth Environmental Specialist

Our quality of life is directly tied to the quality of our water—without it we couldn’t eat, drink, shower, swim, or survive.

Here in Spokane, our drinking water comes from the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, an underground aquifer beginning to the east of us in Idaho and spanning most of the Spokane Valley. The Spokane River and the aquifer are closely connected: aquifer water sometimes flows up into the river, and river water does the opposite—it can infiltrate directly into the ground. Because our river and aquifer are so closely connected, it’s critical that we keep both bodies of water clean.

But once we’ve used water for laundry, dishes, cleaning our cars or flushing our toilets, how do we safely dispose of it without damaging the environment?

The answer involves several steps and a lot of science. Fortunately, wastewater operators at the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility have all the necessary expertise. These professionals oversee a process wherein wastewater is filtered for solid waste and debris, allowed to settle in large clarifying ponds, pumped through incredibly tiny filters that look like long strands of spaghetti, and then disinfected. Not only does this clean the water very well, but the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility is also one of the best wastewater facilities in the country.  I got to see this wastewater cleaning process in Where Does Your Water Go?, and you can see it for yourself in our Let’s Explore Spokane series.

When the clean water is returned back to the river, experts have ensured it is environmentally safe and won’t negatively impact the health of the river or of our aquifer. Thanks to the cooperation of wastewater experts, our government and community, we’re able to have clean water and keep our environment safe and healthy for everyone.  

Now that you’ve seen where your water goes—what will you do differently?

Keep Exploring with these Reads


How Water Works by Kristen Zimmer and Corinna Ren

Water: Discovering the Precious Resource All Around Us by Olga Fadeeva, trans. By Lena Traer

The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London’s Poop Pollution Problem by Colleen Paeff, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter


Engineering in Plain Sight: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Constructed Environment by Grady Hillhouse

Purified: How Recycled Sewage is Transforming Our Water by Peter Annin

Water: A Biography by Giulio Boccaletti