Our Water - War or Pieces?Permalink +
Fri, May 24, 2013, 12:18 am // Guest writer
Marian Beddill writes this guest article on the saga of water rights in our area. She has studied water resources and our Lake Whatcom water situation for many years.
Q: What is the most critical natural resource for all living beings?
A: Air (quality is a valid concern - as long as it is clean, we have enough quantity for everybody, everywhere, all the time.)
Q: What is the second most critical natural resource for all living beings?
A: Fresh Water (not salt-water) (both quality and quantity are concerns.)
Living beings (animals and plants) need water for survival, and (especially critical for animals) every person needs a minimal quantity over every period of a few days. With no water, first you're thirsty, and then you die. People living in a desert really know that. People living in better climates, would reply that they know, but they rarely pay any attention to it, since they just turn on the tap or the valve, and their water is there for their use.
At a less critical short-term level, but still very important: -- business (especially including agriculture) needs water - that fact will be obvious to everyone. What is all too often not noted (not considered) by the general population is where that water "comes from", and how does it get from where it is found, to where it is needed. Enough water, at the right place, and at the right time. Clean. And at the lowest possible price.
All of our water starts as precipitation - and that term includes rain, hail, sleet and snow. It falls to the earth, and some of it quickly evaporates. Of the part that remains liquid, some fell directly into a body of water - creek, river, lake or reservoir. Some falls onto the snowpack - the areas that never go "dry" are the glaciers. The part that falls onto land or snow that melts (or on structures) becomes runoff, and may move across the land surface in a wide variety of ways. The essential thing is that it then may move into one of those bodies of water, or go underground and join another kind of body of water - an underground aquifer. Those are the next-to-last steps in the water-supply systems, which we all take so much for granted.
And, the last step in a water-supply system is an industrial process which grabs some of that water (diverts it from it's natural free-flow), and sends it to users - homes, industries, agriculture, recreation, etc. But hold on - what about this "grab" process? How does that work, and who does it? And what's the deal on "sending it" to users? Who is allowed to grab water out of a river? Can they just put up a dam, and grab it all? (Or grab so much that the remaining flow is way less than "what the natural flow would furnish"?)
If the guy that is upstream/uphill takes too much water for "himself", the people who are below will suffer from not having enough. That principle has been recognized by civil society for centuries, and in the western part of what is now the USA, even before cities made urban laws, was known as "western water law" - the uphill user was required to leave enough for the customary needs of the downhill users.
And the pioneers knew how to settle an abuse of that community rule - with community force. Sometimes with pick and shovel, and in serious cases which continued too long, with another tool that was also "long".
Nowadays, we do better than that, by making agreements among everybody involved - so that each "user" is permitted to take ("to divert for his use") a "reasonable" amount of water from customary sources, to satisfy his realistic needs, while leaving enough for those below.
Ah, "below"! There are two meanings for "below" within this discussion. In natural conditions along a hillside or in a valley, we easily note and agree on what is "above" and what's "below" - uphill and downhill. But with the invention of pumps, a new characteristic of "elevation" came into play - grab downhill-water and push it uphill (or sideways, across) - to somewhere close by or farther away, so that somebody else has the water. That takes equipment and money, but those are ordinary things these days. So an entrepeneur might build a water-supply business, and make a profit by selling the "availability" to water.
That's nice for a while, handy and convenient for the customers (the "water-users"), and no big bother to everybody else. At least, no big bother so long as enough of the usual and accustomed flow of natural water remains in the resource place where this water-supplier is taking out his supply to send it to his "customers".
That way of managing water became the ordinary thing, for many early decades in our state.
Then, as population and needs grew, it was recognized that this reasonable practice ought to be made official, and Washington Water Law was passed. In (probably over-simplified) simple terms, it declared that all natural flow of water was public, and is controlled by The State. All users (with exceptions for some household wells) must ask the State for a Permit to take water, and they cannot legally take it without such a Permit. What was once a just and fair community agreement, became law. If you want to take more water than only for a couple of houses, you must obtain and hold a valid permit for the approved quantity, and not use more than that. It's the law. The State assigned the management of this permitting program to the Department of Ecology, which set up a registry of allowed water users - specifying amounts, locations where taken, and locations and purposes for which the water would be used (as well as the identity of the taker of the water.)
So thousands of water-users registered their water use needs, and the registry system grew. Then, after a while (allow me to grossly shorten the story here) the records system did not manage to keep up with the requests submitted by new users. Also, there were little realistic inspections, and almost no enforcement of the terms of the permits (for both quantity and location.) After a while, the permitting system had issued permits for perhaps double or more than the quantity of water that actually existed, so it was faced with a dilemma - either:
deny a permit (bad), or
allow a permit without being sure that there was enough water (bad).
The lovely, well-meaning community-minded system froze (permit us this pun), and access to water became a question of - if you build a capture-system, you are able to take that water, and do with it whatever you will. Run an industry, grow food, supply urban water to towns and cities, spray it on piles of coal, or sell it.
HUH? Sell the water? - rather than use it for yourself?
Yes, that's right. Over the years, individuals, industries, and businesses started taking water and supplying it to other people and businesses. Sometimes under the color of an association of users, jointly managing the mechanics (and the finances) of a cooperative. And sometimes just to neighbors. And sometimes putting it into bottles, and selling it to customers close or far away. That could be sold as simply water, or as some other product containing water. That middle-man profited by supplying this "raw material" (which belongs to someone else, the State) to third parties.
And that is where we stand today. Many State of Washington water-use permits are on the books (many lacking records of the uses of the water), and there are many water-users benefiting from the use of water, sometimes without a permit. Plus some permits whose paper quantities seem to be much larger than the actual use - so the volume-mismatches go both ways. The language in state law refers to "usufruct". And it says: "Use it or Lose it"
Aha! Maybe there is a solution! Where there is a large-quantity permit, but the user is only taking a portion of that, why not do the neighborly thing and revise that permit "down" to a smaller quantity. Then grant those unused quantities to users who; in real life, are taking more than their paper-permit shows that is allowed. Neither would really lose hardly anything in current real life, when the redistribution was made to match real and rational needs.
True, there might be some cases and places, where the expressed needs for water seem to be larger than the evident available volume. That will take some study, some energy put into deal-making, maybe a bit of heavier negotiation, and in worst cases, formal litigation in court or other ways.
But we must ask - which way is better for the community? Shall we have illegal activities making a profit over misuse of public resources with the government looking sideways, while legal activities are holding a freeze on public resources that they are not using? Or shall we shuffle the deal so that it comes out more fair and proper for all?
Our idea is to first have all the interested parties join in with realistic and open declarations and discussions of supply and demand. Work from that to achieve an agreement of the fairest and best use of our public water by the many acknowledged users, of the truly available resource. First, they will shuffle the cards, and agree on such a water-reallocation plan. Then they can all tell the State DoE to revise the permits-registry for the Nooksack River Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA-1) so that the paper world matches the real world, and all will benefit (except maybe a few scoundrels who were trying to scam the system.)
Drink up, and enjoy your shower.
Review by a water management fairness interest group.
Story written by Marian Beddill.
Whatcom County, Washington. May 2013
Fri, May 24, 2013, 12:18 am // Guest writerMarian Beddill provides a general guide for the public, with a look at the history of water rights in Washington state.
3 comments; last on May 25, 2013
Fri, May 17, 2013, 4:44 pm // John ServaisTuesday morning and nothing in today's Bellingham Herald. Nor online. We provide the basics to fill in this latest omission by our "daily" newspaper.
9 comments; last on May 23, 2013
Sat, May 04, 2013, 12:09 pm // Guest writerWendy Scherrer reminds all who support modest sized grade schools to try and attend the meeting Wed, May 8, in the evening.
3 comments; last on May 10, 2013
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 8:59 pm // Wendy HarrisThe City Planning Department has included a technical document in the waterfront proposal without disclosing important impacts.
1 comments; last on Mar 30, 2013
Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 9:05 am // John ServaisThe Bellingham Herald article today is wrong. There is no hearing tomorrow, March 20
Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 8:42 pm // John ServaisWendy Harris writes about the proposed $8 million concrete bridge along the Bellingham waterfront - using Greenways funds to build.
3 comments; last on Mar 20, 2013
Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 6:39 am // Riley SweeneyRiley details upcoming merger between PeaceHealth and a much more conservative entity
1 comments; last on Feb 26, 2013
Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 5:51 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein artists have to eat, too!
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 2:47 pm // John ServaisThe election created a new park district with taxing power - but with NO control over Chuckanut Ridge - the 100 acre woods.
1 comments; last on Feb 23, 2013
Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 9:40 pm // Wendy HarrisAn "Updated Preferred Alternative" reduces the number of waterfront jobs and expands the boundary of the waterfront district.
Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 3:42 pm // John ServaisThe Park District vote is close and we will not know final results until late ballots are counted.
6 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013
Sat, Feb 09, 2013, 12:14 am // John ServaisThe proponents have avoided the issues on the Park District as the close of voting nears this weekend.
2 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
Wed, Feb 06, 2013, 10:42 pm // John ServaisWhen is a vote No the most positive and common sense action? Check the park district opponents website to learn why.
15 comments; last on Feb 10, 2013
Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 12:59 pm // John ServaisThis Park District proposal has several ironic twists and facets - some involving the advocates.
10 comments; last on Feb 07, 2013
Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 3:05 pm // Guest writerNicholas Zaferatos explains why he is concerned about the park district and looks at the long and short term views if the issue.
11 comments; last on Feb 06, 2013
Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 3:16 pm // Guest writerDr. Gibb explains some history to the issue in a brief article.
8 comments; last on Feb 03, 2013
Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:36 pm // Guest writerPaul Leuthold and Byron Elmendorf explain why to vote NO on the Chuckanut Park District ballot measure.
19 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:26 am // Guest writerGuest post by long time south side resident Marci (Hanson) Haskell on why to vote no on the Park District
5 comments; last on Feb 01, 2013
Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 9:40 am // John ServaisThe Park District is a panic action that over taxes a small group. A city wide solution is by far the better way to proceed.
13 comments; last on Jan 31, 2013
Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 5:25 pm // Guest writerBill Geyer explains Transfer Development Rights and how they can be applied to the Chuckanut Ridge.
17 comments; last on Feb 05, 2013
Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 1:52 am // Wendy HarrisImproving ecosystem functions holistically is the best form of protection for the Lake Whatcom.
1 comments; last on Jan 28, 2013
Sat, Jan 26, 2013, 8:18 pm // Guest writerPhyllis McKee on why to oppose and the importance of voting no if you are against the Park District.
13 comments; last on Jan 29, 2013
Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 9:49 am // Guest writerBy Bill Geyer. South Bellingham citizens vote over the next couple weeks on a self tax to form a park district and pay the Chuckanut Ridge debt.
30 comments; last on Jan 31, 2013
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 1:35 pm // Wendy HarrisA proposed amendment to the Lake Whatcom watershed moratorium will increase water quality degradation
1 comments; last on Jan 12, 2013
Wed, Jan 02, 2013, 11:31 am // John ServaisA needed correction and apology for an error in a story that has been pulled.
3 comments; last on Jan 02, 2013
Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 11:12 am // John ServaisA dramatic video of yet another mudslide near Everett - and what will be coming down on coal trains. Amtrak service to Bellingham is shut down.
4 comments; last on Dec 20, 2012
Sat, Dec 08, 2012, 1:43 pm // John ServaisA giant coal freighter went right through the long dock early Friday morning. Nothing in print edition of Herald
3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2012
Thu, Nov 29, 2012, 8:23 am // Paul deArmondHoss Unplugged, November 30 will Honk the York Neighborhood's Tonk
Sun, Nov 04, 2012, 9:21 am // Paul deArmondThe Whatcom county Voters’ Pamphlet containing misleading and untrue statements by unregistered, unaccountable and anonymous front groups.
3 comments; last on Nov 06, 2012
Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 7:29 am // Riley SweeneyHere's your shot at fame and glory as a political pundit
4 comments; last on Nov 02, 2012
Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 8:45 am // Guest writerJack Petree, guest writer, points out serious flaws in Bellingham Prop 1, the Home Fund, that is intended to help the poor get housing.
18 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012
Wed, Sep 05, 2012, 9:37 pm // John ServaisThe Bellingham city attorney today released the full letter from mayor Kelli Linville to Costco in June.
Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 6:24 pm // Guest writerDavid Maas, a retired college prof, asks why the city of Bellingham is supposedly powerless to stop the development of a private project that will reshape our community?
5 comments; last on Aug 26, 2012
Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 8:00 am // Riley SweeneyRiley sits down with Matt Petryni with Power Past Coal to get the latest scoop
Sun, Aug 19, 2012, 8:29 pm // Larry HorowitzA radical truth trying to gain traction
10 comments; last on Aug 23, 2012
Thu, Aug 16, 2012, 11:50 pm // Wendy HarrisThe Mayor's Negotiations With Costco Undercuts City Permit Procedures And Public Process
4 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012
Thu, Aug 09, 2012, 8:30 pm // Larry HorowitzQuestions raised by the Superior Court's barring of the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights initiative from being placed on the ballot.
21 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012
Fri, Aug 03, 2012, 11:18 pm // John ServaisGraphics projected on building each night in effort to bring attention to threatened building
3 comments; last on Aug 11, 2012
Thu, Jul 26, 2012, 7:18 am // Larry Horowitz... the person who recently had this to say about the Sunnyland Neighborhood rezone application
9 comments; last on Aug 01, 2012
Mon, Jul 23, 2012, 6:05 pm // John ServaisWhere a planning staff desire for view corridors in the Fairhaven plan yields a view corridor that does nothing for views.
1 comments; last on Jul 24, 2012
Fri, Jul 20, 2012, 4:44 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley gathers quotes, video footage and pictures from the recent tea party forum
1 comments; last on Jul 20, 2012
Tue, Jul 10, 2012, 8:45 am // Larry HorowitzWanted: Someone to interpret chamber president Oplinger's remarks
13 comments; last on Jul 13, 2012
Wed, Jul 04, 2012, 10:42 am // Riley SweeneyRiley interviews judicial candidates, reviews campaign tactics, and discusses fireworks
Thu, May 24, 2012, 8:22 am // Dick ConoboyA case for eliminating consumer fireworks in Bellingham city limits
3 comments; last on May 26, 2012
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 11:07 am // Riley SweeneyRiley attended the Whatcom GOP Convention and reports back
1 comments; last on Apr 29, 2012
Tue, Apr 10, 2012, 7:52 pm // John ServaisAn illegal serial Port Commission meeting should be investigated by the State Auditor, and two commissioners should be made accountable for their actions.
5 comments; last on Apr 11, 2012
Sat, Apr 07, 2012, 1:05 pm // Dick ConoboyThe issue is not sprawl or infill, but the money to be made by the type of infill and its placement
7 comments; last on Apr 09, 2012
Fri, Apr 06, 2012, 7:16 am // Guest writerKen Mann writes a guest article of his personal support for the Padden Trails development inside the Bellingham city limits.
3 comments; last on Apr 07, 2012
Tue, Apr 03, 2012, 5:25 pm // John ServaisPort Commissioner Mike McAuley did everything he could do to change Jim Jorgensen's mind. Jim and Scott Walker forced Charlie Sheldon out.
6 comments; last on Apr 06, 2012
Mon, Apr 02, 2012, 11:43 am // Larry HorowitzWhere to begin? Misinformation. Disinformation. Truths. Myths. Same old, same old. Paradigm shift. GMA. OFM. Growth pressures. Population loss. Growth subsidies. Proportionate share.
36 comments; last on Apr 11, 2012
Mon, Apr 02, 2012, 11:35 am // John ServaisThis morning, Charlie Sheldon, unexpectedly resigned as Executive Director of the Port of Bellingham.
10 comments; last on Apr 03, 2012
Mon, Apr 02, 2012, 12:03 am // John ServaisA thanks to Kelli Linville for her quiet and effective solution to the onerous red light cameras dilemma.
Mon, Mar 19, 2012, 12:07 am // Guest writerGuest writer Bill Geyer, who is the consultant for the Padden Trails Development, presents facts and perspective on the development.
34 comments; last on Apr 15, 2012
Sun, Mar 18, 2012, 10:58 pm // John ServaisA new private website displays crimes by dates, on a Bellingham map, or by graphs for all citizens to use.
5 comments; last on Mar 21, 2012
Thu, Mar 15, 2012, 1:11 pm // Guest writerBy guest writer Mike Rostron. Sunnyland residents support infill but not overfill. The old Department of Transportation site on Sunset is the development site.
40 comments; last on Mar 19, 2012
Sun, Mar 11, 2012, 10:20 am // Dick ConoboyThe City Council outlines their agenda for the coming year
2 comments; last on Mar 12, 2012
Fri, Mar 09, 2012, 11:15 am // Riley SweeneyRiley gets to the bottom of this in a NWCitizen Exclusive
4 comments; last on Apr 01, 2012
Wed, Feb 22, 2012, 1:04 am // Guest writerYet another neighborhood wants the Planning Department to protect public health, safety, and general welfare
6 comments; last on Feb 24, 2012
Sat, Feb 18, 2012, 3:03 pm // Guest writerNo EIS - no real county planning concern about developing Squalicum Mountain and degrading Lake Whatcom water even further.
Thu, Feb 16, 2012, 3:38 pm // John ServaisThe Fairhaven Neighborhood Plan gets its first open meeting tonight - where anyone can present their ideas for the future.
New LinksReconveyance Challenge
Salish Sea Org.
Current InterestCommunity Wise Bellingham
Friends of Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
League of Women Voters
Paul Krugman - economics
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesBellingham Police Activity
Chuckanut Community Forest
Citizens of Bellingham
City Club of Bellingham
Community Wise Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
Futurewise - Whatcom
Jail - local mega plans
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
WA Conservation Voters
Port of Bellingham
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good LinksAl-Jazeera online
Foreign Policy in Focus
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Middle East Times
New American Century
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Talking Points Memo
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Internet At Its BestTED
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Register
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph
The Crisis Papers