To tackle the first project of its kind, Boise White Paper needed a team that understood the regional hydrology and hydrogeology and was extremely familiar with the concepts of aquifer storage and recovery (ASR). As a leader in ASR technology in the Northwest, GSI took the lead on the ASR and hydrogeologic work for this thermal ASR project.


In 2009, Boise White Paper LLC teamed with the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) to embark on a groundbreaking thermal ASR project aimed at determining if it was possible to store cold Columbia River water in the basalt aquifer system underlying Boise White Paper’s Mill in Wallula, Washington. The cold water would be injected into the aquifer system during winter and spring months to be used during warm months for cooling activities at the Mill.

This innovative use of ASR would allow the facility to take a large commercial chiller offline and reduce steam load required to evaporate water. Ultimately, it would decrease operating costs by providing a water supply that is a more cost-effective solution than other water supply alternatives. Additionally, it also would decrease pressures on the Columbia River by reducing surface diversions during low flow times, making additional water available for other beneficial uses. It would also reduce total effluent flow into the Columbia River, and potentially reduce the temperature of facility effluent.

GSI’s Solution

Teaming with HDR, Inc., GSI assisted Ecology and Boise White Paper in conducting a multi-phase drilling and testing program including:

  • Phase 1 consisted of drilling, constructing, and testing a large-diameter test well and nearby observation wells to test basic aquifer properties.
  • GSI presented the results of the hydrogeologic, geochemical, and thermal characterization of the portion of the Columbia River basalt aquifer system underlying the Mill. This included an aquifer conceptual model, the results of an AKART (all known, available, and reasonable methods of prevention, control, and treatment) analysis per the Washington anti-degradation rules, recommendations relative to the feasibility of the project (from a hydrogeologic perspective), and recommendations for future actions.
  • GSI developed and implemented a quality assurance project plan for Phase 2 and a pilot test of ASR feasibility at the Mill in 2012. The pilot test entailed injecting cold water into a vertically stacked basalt aquifer system, storing the water for a period of time, extracting it, and assessing any changes that may have occurred during storage.
  • During Phase 2 GSI interpreted the results and made recommendations for future thermal ASR work at the Mill.

Future phases of the work are currently on hold.