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Washington Water Watch: October Edition

Dear Friends,

We hope you’ve enjoyed the few sunny October days and are doing well. During the rainy season, don’t be tricked into thinking we don’t have water supply issues. We will hear forecasts of endless days of rain, but it is important to remember to keep conversations on water use efficiency and conservation going. We still need to protect our water resources. It is also important to be prepared for floods and have an emergency kit for storms and power outages.

The climate is warming and our weather patterns and natural disasters are going to be more extreme. Over time we will have even wetter winters, but more precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow. Less snowpack will exacerbate water issues in the summer. Summers will continue to get drier and drought and fire season, longer. The west is already facing a megadrought. Timing is everything.

We need to take this time of year to think about how we can affect water policy in the coming legislative session, what we can do on a local level to increase conservation efforts, and how we can bring people together to create more equitable water management.

With the end of the year approaching, we are excited to be hosting our Celebrate Water reception and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) workshop series. We are thrilled to be planning Celebrate Water as an in-person event and truly hope to see you soon.

In this issue you will find an update on the Golden Eagle/Darrington water permit application, an article on conservation in water management at different levels, information on a huge Clean Water Act victory, a survey on email communication, water and fish news, details on Celebrate Water and our CLE workshops, registration for the One River, Ethics Matter conference, and ways to support CELP’s work protecting Washington’s waters.

Sincerely,
Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

Read the full newsletter here.


Washington Water Watch: September Edition

Dear friends,
As we are finally starting to see rain again, we reflect on a surprising water year. Hydrologist track and measure water on a different time cycle than a standard calendar year. A water year is measured from October 1st through September 30th. As a new water year is about to start we look back to see what patterns might continue.
This summer showed us that even in years with great winter and spring snowpack, our waters are in trouble. With extreme heat and parched land, snowpack melted quickly. Areas that don’t rely on snowpack, but rather precipitation, are in even more trouble since they received below average precipitation for much of the year. As drought seasons become longer and temperatures warmer, this pattern will continue. Low flows, warm rivers, dry wells, and more will continue to be bigger issues for everyone.
CELP will continue to work for better water management and not let progress towards water conservation and water use efficiency take the back burner during the rainy season. More needs to be done for our waters. We all rely on healthy, abundant waterways.
10 years ago in September the world’s largest dam removal project was started on the Elwha River. Dam removal has helped restore the estuary, river, and wildlife but recovery is ongoing. Now as more dams projects are proposed, CELP continues to fight for our rivers, fish, and treaty rights. We are working to help stop the Chehalis River dam project and encourage alternative approaches for flood management. Our waters need protected for salmon, the environment, and our communities.
In this issue you will find an introduction to CELP’s newest Board Members, an update on the Chehalis River, Information on Ecology’s grants, water and fish news, and upcoming events.
Sincerely,
Trish Rolfe, Executive Director

Read Full Newsletter: https://conta.cc/3AAVLB2


Washington Water Watch: August Edition

Dear friends,

As the dry, hot weather continues, we are increasing water conservation efforts, protecting streamflows, and keeping an eye on our water resources.

Drought and fire season started early, putting our water resources in dire shape. Fifty-nine percent of the state is in severe to exceptional drought. King5 reported by mid-August, Washington and Oregon had already seen more than 20 times more land burned by wildfires this year than by mid-August last year. More needs to be done to protect our waters and adapt to our changing climate.

We are also keeping an eye on COVID-19 and taking necessary precautions to keep our staff and community safe. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback on our survey about attending events. We decided it was prudent to reschedule Celebrate Water. The new date is December 9th. We are hopeful circumstances will improve and we will be able to celebrate at Ivar’s Salmon House then.

CELP was greatly saddened to hear about the passing of Lorraine Loomis. Our hearts go out to her family, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and all who had the honor of knowing her.

In this issue you will find our latest comments to Ecology, our 2020 Annual Report, a tribute to Lorraine Loomis, information on water shortages in the West, Water & Fish News, and event details for Celebrate Water, the One River, Ethics Matter Conference, and AWRA-WA’s Annual Conference.

Sincerely,
Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read the full newsletter: https://conta.cc/3yAipIc


Washington Water Watch: May & June Edition

EDIT: The newsletter includes a save the date for Celebrate Waters. The date has since changed to September 9th.

Press Release

Dear Friends,

As we approach summer, we at CELP are keeping an eye on our water resources. This winter and spring we received plenty of snow that resulted in a heavy snowpack. Snowpack is a critical frozen reservoir that is released over the spring and summer as it melts. This spring much of the state has had warmer temperatures and below normal precipitation. Even with our current snowpack, there is concern that it will not last through the driest parts of the summer. Soil moisture is also an indicator of how much snowpack makes it into the rivers. In dry conditions the soil acts as a sponge and less snowmelt is added to stream flows. For our rivers that rely on precipitation more than snowpack there is even greater concern.

The Department of Ecology issued a drought advisory the end of May for most of Washington state, including all areas east of the Cascade Mountains, portions of southwest Washington and the Washington coast. The advisory acts as an early warning of possible drought to promote awareness and readiness. This is the first time the Department of Ecology has issued a drought advisory since it received the authority to do so from the Legislature in 2020. In the 2020 legislative session, CELP supported and advocated for Ecology’s drought preparedness bill. We are hopeful this action improves awareness among water users and increases readiness to respond to drought and conserve water.

As we all come out of the long COVID lock down, change and growth are coming to CELP. We are thrilled to introduce our new Water Policy Outreach Coordinator as well as our new Legal Intern. We are looking forward to them bringing new energy and ideas to our work. While we have adapted to working remotely, we are excited to be going back into the office soon and getting to work as a team in person. And this month we say goodbye to a long-time employee, our staff attorney Dan Von Seggern. We wish Dan the best in his new position, and we are excited to add a new staff attorney. 

In this issue you will find an update on our legislative success, an update on watershed restoration plans, a welcome to our new team members, water and fish in the news, a GiveBIG thank you, and a save the date for Celebrate Waters.

Sincerely,
Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read Full Newsletter: https://conta.cc/35hoGMu


July Drought Update

Summer officially began a few weeks ago and Washingtonians are now out hiking, camping and enjoying all the outdoors activities our state has to offer. But this warm, dry weather comes with frightening prospects for Washington’s rivers and streams. As you may have heard, Governor Inslee declared an emergency drought back in early April and since then he has expanded it to over half of the state. Snowpack conditions are less than 50% of the average for this time of year, and 83% of our rivers and streams are flowing well below normal with many experiencing record lows.  

The Naches River flows low as it feeds into the Yakima – Washington State Department of Ecology.

This is not good news for Washington’s rivers and the fish that depend on them. Statewide, more than two dozen salmon populations are listed as endangered, and this year’s drought could cause these salmon populations to dwindle even more, hampering recovery efforts for the endangered Resident Orcas as well. Low flows are also impacting water quality in many of our rivers and streams, and causing rafting and kayaking business to cancel summer trips. In many areas of the state water users have already been told to cut back their water use until stream flows improve. As bad as this all is it’s likely to get much worse, Climate Change and our states population growth continue to strain Washington’s already over-allocated water resources.  

Even in light of all this, there is still immense pressure to give away our water, like a proposed Crystal Geyser water bottling plant in Randle, Washington that is planning to take 325,000 gallons a day out of the Cowlitz river watershed if its permit is approved by Ecology. That’s where CELP comes in. As Washington’s only water defender, CELP has worked passionately since 1993 to protect and restore clean, flowing waters in Washington, and we are now working around the state to stop this wholesale giveaway of our water resources, and restore flows in the many rivers and streams across the state. But we can’t do it alone.  Your support now means more than ever. Please consider making a donation today.  You can donate online at our secure website, or send us a check in the mail. CELP’s work to protect Washington’s water resources depends on it.    

Take a look at current streamflow conditions here: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/water-dashboard/surface?state=wa


Washington Water Watch: May 2019

Dear friends of CELP,

As you may have heard, Governor Inslee declared an emergency drought declaration back in early April. Since then, he has expanded that declaration to nearly half of the state. Poor water supply conditions and warmer and drier weather predictions through the summer have us extremely worried. 

Snow pack conditions are less than 50% of the average for this time of year, and the Washington State Department of Ecology is expecting a warmer and drier summer than in year than years prior. All this makes CELP’s work more critical than ever, but our work would not be possible without supporters like you. We rely on generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams.  Renew your membership today on our secure website. In this issue you will find information about this year’s Summer CLE, Celebrate Water, CELP’s involvement in your community, and a legislative wrap up highlighting some wins for water laws in the most recent legislative session.  

Sincerely, 
Trish Rolfe
Executive Director
trolfe@celp.org

View the full report here: https://conta.cc/2EH1UAF


September Edition of Washington Water Watch Is Out!

Dry Orchards in Benton County - Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

Dry Orchards in Benton County – Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

Check out the September edition of our newsletter, Washington Water Watch. You will find an article on our recent legal action to stop pollution from the Leavenworth Hatchery, Ecology’s new Reclaimed Water Rule, an update on our H2KNOW campaign, and information about a conference we are sponsoring about modernizing the Columbia River Treaty, “One River. Ethics Matter”. You will also find information about CELP’s upcoming events.

Click here to read more.


August Edition of Washington Water Watch is Out!

Teanaway River, tributary of the Yakima River, running very low - Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

Teanaway River, tributary of the Yakima River, running very low – Photo from WA Dept of Ecology

In this month’s newsletter, you’ll find an update on Washington’s drought, an article about the H2KNOW campaign currently going on in Spokane, a profile of Frank James, one of CELP’s board members, and more water news.

Check it out here.


H2KNOW and City of Spokane join together to encourage Water Conservation

High water use impacts Spokane River flows

H2KNOW: Our Spokane River is Low and the City of Spokane’s Slow the Flow Program joined together today to strongly encourage people to conserve water during our drought, record-high heat, and a drastically reduced river flow.

“We are pleased to join the City of Spokane in strengthening awareness of aquifer-river relationships and an increased call for water conservation,” said John Roskelley, H2KNOW co-organizer, CELP board member and former Spokane County Commissioner. “During this drought summer, governments, businesses, and people are all pumping high levels of water and this is robbing our river of its water.  Such extremely low river flows have negative impacts on small businesses, fish and wildlife, family recreation, and the overall identity of our community.  ‘Near nature, near perfect’ is more than a slogan, it reflects a deeper relationship with our river.”

Compare the Spokane River at 2500 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the photo on the left, taken July 2014, to 630 cfs in the photo on the right, taken this August from the same spot in Riverside State Park.

Spokane River at 2500 cfs  - Photo by John Osborn, taken at Riverside State Park

Spokane River at 2500 cfs – Photo by John Osborn

Spokane River at 630 cfs - Photo by John Osborn taken at Riverside State Park

Spokane River at 630 cfs – Photo by John Osborn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Romero, the City’s Utilities Division Director, said, “Just as the City has taken a strong regional leadership role on improving the water quality in the Spokane River through the development of its Integrated Clean Water Plan and plans for more than $300 million in river investments, we want to enhance our leadership role on water conservation efforts and protecting our river flows.  We are proud that our citizens already are responding positively.  Following record water pumping in June when temperatures were unusually high, our pumping numbers for July are pretty average when looking at the last 25 years of data.  And, today, we ask citizens to continue their work to ‘Slow the Flow.’”

Today’s water conservation message builds on approval by the City Council on August 10th of a request to make the position of Education Coordinator for the City’s Water Department full time.  As noted by Council Member Jon Snyder:

… We have to have a systemic approach that not only addresses consumer use and how people use water but a whole planning and a whole vision for our water future here in the Spokane area.

… I’m also looking forward for chances for this Council to weigh in on the Water Plan and other Water Policy so we can make some good decisions that will last years into the future.  (view statement)

The City and H2KNOW urge Spokane water customers to keep in mind the Spokane River and voluntarily reduce their water use by 10 to 20 percent.  This can be achieved through the following and other simple solutions around the home:

  • Reduce lawn watering to only twice per week. Don’t water on windy days, and turn off your sprinklers when it rains.
  • Water your lawn and garden only at night or in the very early morning; water evaporates in the hot mid-day.
  • Take shorter showers and install a low-flow showerhead.

Many other money-saving, easy actions can be found at the www.H2KNOW.info as well as at the city’s www.waterstewardship.org.

Citizens should also think long-term.  Weather forecasters already are predicting that the Pacific Northwest may have another low-snow winter and long, hot summer in 2016.   Install low-flow toilets, change your landscaping to remove thirsty lawns and install water-efficient native plants.

H2KNOW is a community awareness campaign is supported by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club, and the Columbia Institute for Water Policy.

Follow H2KNOW on Facebook and check out our website.

Follow Spokane’s Slow the Flow campaign.


Water Use at Historic High, Spokane River near Historic Low

Update and correction from the H2KNOW campaign:  the data for this blog post were from the USGS website, and have subsequently been revised upward to flows around 700cfs.  “Provisional Data Subject to Revision” is noted on the river gage website.  Current flows of around 700 are extremely low, while not yet at historic lows. Despite low flows, water use remains high.

H2KNOWriverlow-1

Spokane River flows dropping

 Plea for community to conserve water to help struggling river

Today the H2KNOW community water-conservation campaign sounded the alarm that water levels in the Spokane River dropped below 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the first time this summer.   Meanwhile, City of Spokane water use is at an all-time high: 3.8 billion gallons in July, or 122 million gallons of water each day.

“Our Spokane River is in trouble, and we must conserve water,” said John Osborn with the new H2KNOW water conservation campaign. “We must use water wisely to help our struggling river.”

Spokane River at Riverside State Park (from the suspension bridge at Bowl & Pitcher).  River flows were at 630cfs.  photo - John Osborn

Spokane River at Riverside State Park (looking upstream from the suspension bridge at Bowl & Pitcher). On August 8, 2015, river flows were at 630 cfs. photo – John Osborn

Water supply is provided by groundwater from the Spokane-Rathdrum Aquifer. The Aquifer also supplies water to the Spokane River. Increased groundwater pumping for human use directly depletes flow in the River.

Hot temperatures approaching 100 degrees are forecast again for much of this week. Drought combined with excessive water use by the 500,000 people living in this basin are causing historic extremes in low flow for the Spokane River. The lowest flows ever recorded are in the mid-400 cfs range, and we have begun to break the record according to the USGS Spokane River gage. Low flows harm fish, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and businesses that depend on the river.

“Conserve water for the river’s sake,” said Tom Soeldner, a retired Lutheran pastor who co-chair’s Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group. “There is a void in leadership from our government on water conservation during this drought. We as individuals must take responsibility for protecting our Spokane River.”

Five actions that people can take to conserve water and help our Spokane River:

  1. Reduce outdoor watering (especially stop overwatering grass)
  2. Fix broken or clogged pipes and sprinkler heads
  3. Fix leaks in all plumbing fixtures
  4. Install water-efficient devices (such as low flow toilets and shower heads)
  5. Replace your lawn with low-water plants

Comparing flows now with prior years underscores the terrible condition of the river and the need for people to act.   One year ago, in 2014, lowest flows were about 900cfs.   When Spokane was a young city in the 1890s, flows ranged from 1500-2000cfs in August. River flows are monitored at a stream gage near the Monroe Street dam, the oldest continuous gage in Washington State.

During the first week of August, the H2KNOW campaign launched a regional public education effort to help people understand the connection between aquifer and river, and the need to conserve water during this drought summer and beyond.   For more on the water conservation campaign and what people can do, visit www.H2KNOW.info