Although we get lots of rain and snow in the winter, Whatcom County faces serious water-supply issues during the summer months. Here are the key issues I see and what to do about them:
- Salmon populations have declined dramatically over the past several decades.
- We have a major responsibility to reverse these trends to restore healthy salmon (and other wildlife) populations.
- Salmon-recovery efforts encompass a broad range of activities, including habitat restoration and protection, higher water quality, improved floodplain and land-use management, and better management of fishing. One element of such a program is improved management of human use of water to increase instream flows, especially during the summer. Indeed, streamflows interact with the other factors affecting salmon health; e.g., low streamflows lead to high water temperatures, low dissolved oxygen levels, less access to and extent of habitat, and increased concentrations of pollutants.
- The streamflows set by the state Dept. of Ecology in its 1985 Nooksack Instream Resource Protection Program are not being met during the critical summer months when flows are low and human use of water is high (see Figure). Whether low summer flows are a serious problem or an artifact of how the numbers were developed is subject to debate.
For more information and ideas on water supply and the Nooksack rule, read my new paper, “What Does the Nooksack Instream Flow Rule Mean”.