Melissa Bates is co-founder of Aqua Permanenté, a citizens group that works to protect water resources in the Kittitas Valley and statewide. In 2008, Aqua Permanenté petitioned the Department of Ecology to close the Upper Kittitas Valley to all new groundwater withdrawals, including permit-exempt wells. In 2011, that closure became reality, when the state adopted a rule prohibiting new, unmitigated wells in Upper Kittitas. The rule set a new standard for “water budget neutral” appropriations, and mitigation of water use to protect water users and the environment. Melissa and her colleagues have also been active in the Yakima Integrated Water Planning process, the Department of Ecology’s Rural Water Supply process, and generally sticking up for junior water right holders who are adversely affected by diminishing water supplies. Melissa and her family have been invaluable volunteers for CELP.
When asked about her passion for water conservation, Melissa said:
“Growing up in the Great Lakes area, I definitely took water for granted. We lived on the water, had a pool and most of our activities revolved around water sports (even when frozen – we did lots of ice skating!). When I came out to central Washington State in 1991 (by way of Alaska), I was surprised that a trip to the ‘swimming hole’ could be a 20 minute drive. About that same time I read Cadillac Desert which had a tremendous impact on me. Water is a part of the Public Trust, which includes the water required to support the entire ecosystem, not just what flows past the stream gauge. I have participated in many different water workgroups, and have come to believe that our state needs to better manage its water resources. I like working with CELP because CELP’s work is very thorough – they take the time to understand and evaluate pending policy decisions or legal challenges. The problem is that the State has never really done their job of protecting the water resource and we now are painted into a corner, yet Ecology is still unable to say no to the developers. Any remaining protections are continually being eroded away – often by the very agency tasked to defend them. This puts CELP in the position of trying to protect the instream water resource while Ecology puts up some of the biggest obstacles. No one defends our water resources like CELP, so CELP has to be tough because once the water has been taken for out-of-stream use; you rarely get it back instream! At the same time, CELP works on drafting policy in order to proactively create protections.”
In addition to her conservation activities, Melissa is a medical lab tech and has a small farm outside Cle Elum, WA. Her husband is an Eventing instructor (jumping, dressage and cross-country riding). They have 2 children, a son who is a senior at UW in biochemistry and physics and a daughter in middle school. They’ve raised sheep for meat and wool but have downsized the flock and now just have sheep for wool, and the sheep are grateful.