Clean Water: we can't live without it
Washington's water crisis is real and long-standing, but if environmentalists and water users can come together, common-sense solutions are within reach.
By Mo McBroom, Policy Director
Rivers and streams supply the water that is so important to the health of our families, communities, and economies. Rivers like the Dungeness, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Wenatchee, Walla Walla, Spokane and Columbia are some of the true crown jewels of our natural heritage and are home to fish and wildlife, including salmon and steelhead.
Water is a limited and publicly-owned resource which is asked to meet many demands – for drinking water, for municipalities and industries, and for agriculture. Unfortunately, with population growth and climate change, more and more rivers are over-tapped. In our rush to build and expand, we forgot that rivers need water; that our water supply is limited.
This scarcity is creating uncertainty, threatening livelihoods and some communities. If we don’t improve the way we manage this precious resource, we will face serious consequences. And if climate change continues unchecked, the strain on the water supply will grow exponentially. Unfortunately, efforts to improve water management in Washington have often foundered because of perceived incompatibility between the interests of the environment and those of water users.
It’s time for a new coming together, a collaborative approach that recognizes we can balance competing needs, we can protect streams while providing certainty and security for farmers and other water users . That is why WEC has teamed up with American Rivers and the Washington Rivers Conservancy to promote a proactive and collaborative effort to improve water management. Together, we are reaching out to farmers, irrigators and others to build a meaningful dialogue across the state, and identify solutions that will work for people, farms and fish.
WEC will support polices that:
• Increase basic understanding of water availability: We withdraw billions of gallons of water every day from rivers, streams and aquifers across the state, yet we are missing essential information about exactly how much water is used and when.
• Establish basic environmental protections: Roughly two-thirds of the rivers and streams in the state have never been evaluated to determine the minimum amount of water needed to keep them healthy and functioning. Without this information, it is difficult to manage water withdrawals and difficult to establish goals for restoration efforts.
• Promote accountability: Wasteful and illegal water use harms both the environment and other water users. Due to political pitfalls and a lack of funding, there is little-to-no enforcement against water users who waste water or exceed their permit conditions.
Washington’s water crisis is real and long-standing, but if environmentalists and water users can come together, commonsense solutions are within reach. WEC and our partners are committed to bridging the divide and creating a sustainable water future for all Washingtonians that includes healthy rivers and streams, secure water rights, and sustainable communities. Washington’s water crisis is real and long-standing, but if environmentalists and water users can come together, commonsense solutions are within reach.