Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Water Supply: Searching For Certainty In Uncertain Times

This two-day Symposium [May 30&31] was timely and pretty well attended - at least by those folks who believe the topic is important enough to pay attention.
Here is the link to the announcement, agenda and speakers.
And, here is John Stark's article that appeared afterward in the Bellingham Herald

The discussions covered primary uses, including Agricultural; Industrial; Rural; Urban; and the big unknown, the In-Stream Flows, necessary to ensure fish can live and propagate.
It was on this last 'unknown' that the most interesting development was again revealed, in no uncertain terms; both the Lummi and Nooksack tribes have appealed -two years ago- to the Federal Government to clarify and quantify their most senior water rights. Who can blame them?

As today's Gristle pointed out, only the Feds have jurisdiction over such tribal matters, not the State of Washington; but it is critically important that WRIA-1 water rights be apportioned fairly, not only to ensure adequate In-Stream Flows, but to quantify those rights under jurisdiction of the WA State Dept of Ecology. Largely left out is the groundwater existing in aquifers, which are technically connected by hydraulic continuity, but difficult to completely quantify with the data currently available.

In mathematical terms; X - Y = Z, where X is the total amount of water available, Y is the total necessary In-Stream Flow, and Z is the amount of water available for all other uses. No one seems to know these quantities with any accuracy, or at least are not willing to share that information. But, a large amount of data have already been collected over the 7 years that the $4.5 million WRIA-1 program was fully underway, that could approximate at least the overall range of total water available -by season- in this large drainage.

Much of the uncertainty in the Symposium's title relates directly to this question of quantity, and the various sub-divisions of this quantity necessary to describe the various uses listed above. It is in the divvying up process that major conflicts will come to light, some to the detriment of those who have become accustomed to claiming water rights that either don't belong to them, or don't exist at all.
But, regardless of winners and losers, it is important to resolve this water rights problem sooner rather than later, because it will just get worse as time passes, thus creating more conflict and uncertainty.

One point deserves emphasis, while water law seems complicated, the concept of usufruct applies;  that means folks have the right to use the water, not own it. There is a finite amount of water that exists on this planet, and way less than 1% is potable. Our government consists of duly elected officials, whose duty is to face difficult problems like water rights - and resolve them in a fair, transparent public process!
So, be careful of who you support for elected office. It does matter that they be held accountable!

An earlier blog is worth revisiting, at this URL.