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Friday, August 20, 2010

Help us improve the way your water is managed and protected

By Dan Partridge, Communications manager, Water Resources Program

UPDATE: The Water Smart Washington online forum is now open for comments (8/30/10)

Where does your water come from?


For many people, the answer is simple: the faucet in my kitchen sink.

In fact, your drinking water, the water used to grow crops, and the water that fish and wildlife depend upon, comes from the rivers, lakes, streams, and groundwater of Washington state. The average person takes water for granted and assumes it will always be here: clean, abundant and cheap.

Let's discuss this online!



Those of us who work in the Water Resources Program at the Department of Ecology are reaching out to the public to challenge those assumptions. We’d like to invite you to join us in a major effort to change the way water is managed in Washington state so that water for current and future needs will always be available.

On Monday, Aug. 30, 2010, Ecology will open the Water Smart Washington Online Forum to engage the public in water management discussions.

Growing demands for water fueled by population growth, the need for economic development, and finding ways to cope with climate change, means we will be facing declining water supplies unless we change the way we do our work in Water Resources and find better ways to pay for that work.

Finding new and better ways to manage water


Water Resources’ ongoing mission is to partner with Washington communities in support of managing sustainable water resources for the benefit of people and the natural environment. Efforts to fulfill that mission, however, have been handicapped in recent years by inconsistent funding resulting from dependence on the State General Fund and the need to update 19th century water laws which are inadequate for regulating water use in the 21st Century.

Budget cuts and staff reductions have left us with antiquated data systems and have put us way behind in processing water right applications. You need a water right to use the water of Washington but our backlog has left thousands of applicants waiting in line for their applications to be processed.

The Water Smart Washington Online Forum will feature a 'Question of the Week' about how the Water Resources Program can become more efficient and self-sustaining. A sample question:
“Currently state taxpayers pay for more than 98 percent of the cost of processing water right applications for agriculture or commercial uses, with the cost of processing averaging about $10,000 per application. Should those who want to use the water of Washington pay a larger portion or even the full cost of processing their water right applications?”

Your comments and suggestions will be posted online in the Forum and your questions will be answered. Your participation in the Forum will help shape the policy initiatives Ecology is considering and the proposed legislation that Ecology will be requesting to reform water resource management in Washington state.

So please check our website on Monday, Aug. 30 and join in the discussion. In the meantime, the introductory video for the Online Forum is currently available on YouTube.

6 comments:

Noel said...

Water is growing in scarcity!

The Dalan Farm said...

Certainly is an important topic. Should be some lively discussions!

Doug said...

“Currently state taxpayers pay for more than 98 percent of the cost of processing water right applications for agriculture or commercial uses, with the cost of processing averaging about $10,000 per application. Should those who want to use the water of Washington pay a larger portion or even the full cost of processing their water right applications?”

My question is How can it cost $10,000 for a clerk to process an application? How much are we (THE TAXPAYERS)paying for clerical staff in Washington? You must have set formulas for approving applications. Are people being charged a fee to review an individual application or is this just another tax to support a bloated budget?

WA Department of Ecology said...

Doug, thank you for posting a question.

The water right application process is not a simple “rubber stamp” process and it is not clerks who process the applications. Significant scientific and technical analysis is required for each application by licensed hydrogeologists and other qualified environmental professionals

Under Washington state law, the waters of Washington collectively belong to the public and cannot be owned by any one individual or group.
Therefore the law requires users of public water to receive approval from the state prior to the actual use of water. Ecology is given the authority by the state legislature to make these decisions.

Since much of the water in Washington has already been allocated or claimed, new water rights are increasingly difficult to obtain. This means that any new water right is subject to existing (more senior) rights. Therefore water right applications may be denied, or water use may be regulated or modified, if it adversely affects existing rights. This protects existing water rights against any impairment (harmful effects) by future applicants.

Ecology is required to conduct an investigation on each application to determine the physical and legal availability of water, if the proposed use will impair existing water rights and if the proposed use is detrimental to the public interest.

The results of the investigation are summarized in a Report of Examination (ROE). The ROE contains Ecology's decision on the water right request. Ecology can recommend a denial, an approval, or an approval with conditions. In addition, other (senior) water right holders, cities, water districts, farmers, Indian tribes and environmental interest groups can all appeal Ecology’s decision. All of this takes time and resources.

MKK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MKK said...

The best way for the State to manage our water is through science and not politics. Much more time and effort needs to be put into Groundwater Studies so that ALL water regulations can be supported by facts and not fiction/politics. Without this, DOE will fail to get the majority support of the public. We live in a time that water can be accurately measured, monitored and studied and not rely on science from the late 1800's. Conservation & Storage should be DOE's priority and not regulation and restrictions.