Our Water - War or Pieces?Permalink +
Fri, May 24, 2013, 1:18 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, 1:18 am // Guest writerMarian Beddill provides a general guide for the public, with a look at the history of water rights in Washington state.
4 comments; last on May 26, 2013
Sun, May 05, 2013, 3:45 pm // John ServaisHelp fund a scientific study looking for links between diesel locomotives, coal trains and unhealthy air.
Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 7:39 am // Riley SweeneyRiley details upcoming merger between PeaceHealth and a much more conservative entity
1 comments; last on Feb 26, 2013
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 4:01 pm // John ServaisRiley Sweeney has posted a great video clip of Sen. Doug Ericksen flouting rules and legal procedures at a Senate hearing in Olympia.
Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 5:53 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley looks into Ericksen's legislative efforts this session
1 comments; last on Jan 22, 2013
Fri, Dec 28, 2012, 1:33 pm // John LesowA comparison of U.S. and Canadian attitudes and policies for taxes and fiscal integrity. By a Canadian citizen.
7 comments; last on Feb 03, 2013
Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 2:18 pm // John ServaisThe Tunnel Creek avalanche and three skiers' deaths last February was a confusing tragedy. Experts killed. How did it happen?
Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 8:29 am // Riley SweeneyHere's your shot at fame and glory as a political pundit
4 comments; last on Nov 02, 2012
Fri, Oct 19, 2012, 2:24 pm // Dick ConoboyWashington voters have wisely turned down three attempts to create charter schools in this state. They should replicate these defeats in 2012.
1 comments; last on Oct 23, 2012
Thu, Oct 18, 2012, 4:15 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley talks about the Seattle Times, Newsweek and the future of Print Media
Tue, Oct 02, 2012, 9:35 am // Riley SweeneyRiley pores through Rep. Jason Overstreet's legislative record
7 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012
Tue, Oct 02, 2012, 9:22 am // Riley SweeneyRiley examines Rep. Vincent Buys' legislative record
1 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012
Wed, Sep 05, 2012, 12:00 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley patiently explains to the Whatcom Excavator what a flowchart should look like
Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 9:00 am // Riley SweeneyRiley sits down with Matt Petryni with Power Past Coal to get the latest scoop
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 12:07 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley attended the Whatcom GOP Convention and reports back
1 comments; last on Apr 29, 2012
Tue, Apr 10, 2012, 8:52 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
Sun, Feb 19, 2012, 6:37 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley at The Political Junkie attends a forum of Congressional Candidates, and a town hall meeting in Lynden
Wed, Jan 11, 2012, 10:04 am // Riley SweeneyLatest from the Political Junkie on a variety of subjects
7 comments; last on Jan 16, 2012
Tue, Dec 06, 2011, 1:12 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley attends a public meeting on equality
Sat, Oct 15, 2011, 12:13 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley provides an update on the redistricting process
Wed, Sep 21, 2011, 11:21 am // Riley SweeneyRiley finds an oddity in Republican plan
3 comments; last on Sep 21, 2011
Wed, Sep 14, 2011, 11:34 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley examines the legislative and congressional redistricting.
1 comments; last on Sep 18, 2011
Mon, Sep 05, 2011, 9:19 am // Riley SweeneyRiley writes for the local Dems about Labor Day
3 comments; last on Sep 07, 2011
Wed, May 18, 2011, 10:31 am // Riley SweeneyPatti Brooks' war on gophers shows how she is a socialist
3 comments; last on May 28, 2011
Thu, May 12, 2011, 9:41 am // Riley SweeneyRiley Sweeney endorses I-1149
1 comments; last on May 23, 2011
Tue, Apr 19, 2011, 1:15 am // Guest writerCitizens are denied access to the budget debate and evicted from the capitol while the media is blocked from the building
Wed, Mar 30, 2011, 10:44 am // Guest writerElisabeth Marshall explains that Washington is one of several states looking at the advantages of a state-owned Public Bank
1 comments; last on Apr 03, 2011
Mon, Feb 21, 2011, 6:17 am // Riley SweeneyRiley Sweeney talks about why it is time for legalization of hemp
1 comments; last on Mar 29, 2011
Mon, Jan 03, 2011, 6:49 am // Riley SweeneyRiley Sweeney talks about his 2011 Legislative Wish List
10 comments; last on Jan 08, 2011
Sun, May 23, 2010, 1:37 pm // David CampDavid Camp writes on Prohibition and the American Way
3 comments; last on May 28, 2010
Sat, May 01, 2010, 6:55 am // Craig MayberryIt is time to restore integrity to the political process and it must begin with the process of running for office.
2 comments; last on May 01, 2010
Mon, Mar 29, 2010, 6:28 am // Riley SweeneyIn case you missed it, Rob McKenna, our Republican attorney general, joined several other Republican attorneys general
1 comments; last on Mar 30, 2010
Wed, Feb 03, 2010, 5:39 pm // Guest writerBy guest writer Marilyn Olsen. A Bill seeks to impose fees on those requesting access to public documents.
2 comments; last on Feb 07, 2010
Thu, Oct 29, 2009, 9:00 pm // Craig MayberryAt the Bellingham City Club on Wednesday, Norman Rice, the former mayor of Seattle, spoke about public process. It was an enlightening conversation for all that were…
2 comments; last on Oct 30, 2009
Thu, Feb 12, 2009, 8:36 pm // Larry HorowitzHave you ever wondered how truly livable cities become undesirable hell holes? Do the people who run these highly attractive areas into the ground merely fail to comprehend…
2 comments; last on Feb 16, 2009
Fri, Oct 17, 2008, 1:20 pm // Larry HorowitzWhen it comes to planning for the future of our county and cities, must we be victims of the past or can we become masters of our own…
1 comments; last on Oct 18, 2008
Fri, Apr 18, 2008, 5:31 pm // Craig MayberryThe discussion on this issue has been insightful and I believe exactly what John Servais was looking for when he revamped the NWcitizen blog. The issue of transportation…
13 comments; last on May 28, 2008
Sun, Apr 06, 2008, 6:31 pm // John ServaisHue Beattie has announced he is going to run for the 40th District State Senate seat being vacated by Harriet Spanel. Hue is known to most, if not…
2 comments; last on Apr 19, 2008
Wed, Feb 27, 2008, 2:10 pm // Craig MayberryIt looks like another legislative session and another missed opportunity to deal with transportation problems in the state, especially around Seattle. Both political parties seem to ignore some…
1 comments; last on Feb 27, 2008
Mon, Feb 11, 2008, 12:47 pm // Tip JohnsonSomething about Bellingham’s poverty brings out the worst, even in the best of us.
The Kulshan Land Trust ushered it’s presence into Happy Valley with the development
1 comments; last on Feb 12, 2011
Tue, Apr 03, 2007, 5:59 pm // John ServaisAt the Ellen Murphy hearing yesterday virtually nothing happened and it lasted about a minute. Ellen's attorney, Joe Pemberton, told judge Lev that in light of the changes…
Thu, Mar 29, 2007, 4:09 pm // John ServaisRick Larsen's attitude towards those citizens who are against the war in Iraq is exposed. In the case against Ellen Murphy by US Rep. Rick Larsen and the…
Sun, Mar 11, 2007, 5:16 pm // Site ManagementCongressman Rick Larsen has (so far) successfully avoided the process server who is waiting to hand him a subpoena to appear in the trial of war protester Ellen…
Sun, Mar 04, 2007, 5:31 pm // Site ManagementEllen Murphy is now allowed to enter the Federal Building in Bellingham. With the court dismissal of the Oct. 20 trespass charge, the lifetime ban on entering the…
Thu, Feb 15, 2007, 5:45 pm // Site ManagementCity of Bellingham prosecutor was forced to dismiss the October 20, 2006 trespassing charge against Ellen Murphy in Municipal Court today. Ellen will still stand trial on Tuesday,…
Tue, Feb 06, 2007, 6:09 pm // Site ManagementEllen Murphy has the courage to practice classic civil protest - to publicly bring her questions about the Iraq war to Rick Larsen, our US Congress Representative. And…
Tue, Jan 16, 2007, 6:46 pm // John Servais. . . welcome to the correct side of the Iraq war issue. Rick spoke yesterday at Bellingham city hall and, according to the Bellingham Herald, he switched…
Wed, Jan 10, 2007, 5:49 pm // John ServaisIn his speech tonight, Bush gave no specific time lines for expected results. The first words from news commentators referred to six months for results. But Bush can…
Sun, Nov 19, 2006, 5:03 am // Tip JohnsonZetta Bracher, President of the local Democratic Women's Club, has an idea for getting consensus on our "new direction" in Iraq.
When it became apparent that there were no…
Fri, Sep 08, 2006, 7:57 pm // Site ManagementMail your ballot before Tuesday, Sept 19 (or by 5 pm that day if you want to take a chance).
Mary Kay Becker - re-elect her as a judge…
Sun, May 21, 2006, 8:03 pm // Site Managementfrom the polls this November. And let the Democrats take over Congress. My wishful thinking? Not at all. Rather the wish and hope of Richard Viguerie, one of…
Sat, Nov 05, 2005, 4:21 pm // Site Management- as a Democrat and against Maria Cantwell. His website is www.votemark.org and it will be posted in the column to the right in
Mon, Apr 25, 2005, 6:13 pm // Site ManagementApparently my name is on Larsen's black list. He has replied to some others on his vote for the bankruptcy bill - but only, as he writes, because…
Mon, Apr 18, 2005, 6:15 pm // Site ManagementStill no answer from Rick Larsen's staff. No answer to direct questions has been the process for the past couple years. His office probably responds the same day…
Thu, Apr 14, 2005, 6:17 pm // Site ManagementRick Larsen is voting with the conservative Republicans these days. Rick was one of the key few Democrats who voted FOR the harsh new bankruptcy law - and…
Sat, Feb 12, 2005, 6:35 pm // Site ManagementMaria Cantwell has voted to restrict class-action law suits - siding with the Bush administration to remove legal rights from working people. My Democratic friends seem to be…
Mon, Nov 01, 2004, 9:28 pm // Site ManagementI don't kid myself that these have much affect, as most who check this blog have their own strong opinions. But, for the record, and for those who…
Fri, Oct 15, 2004, 10:12 pm // Site ManagementRobin Bailey is running to replace Doug Ericksen as state representative. Check her website and her positions. Whatcom County would benefit greatly if she wins. Ericksen has not…
Mon, Oct 04, 2004, 10:18 pm // Site ManagementNote. Tue, Oct 5 - I have tweaked this post to correct a confusing statement.
Rarely are we allowed a vote for real choice. And for real improvement in…
Fri, Sep 17, 2004, 10:39 pm // John ServaisLarry is running for Congress. He wants to replace Rick Larsen as the 2nd District's Representative. He is a Republican but prefers to call himself a 'New Republican'…
New Linksthe Oatmeal
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