January/February Edition of Washington Water Watch is Out!

Check out the latest issue of Washington Water Watch!

This edition features water issues in the legislature, an update on Dungeness River litigation, and news about the WSU Water plan and Columbia River Treaty letter. Meet our new Development and Outreach Coordinator and learn about our upcoming events in Spokane and Idaho, our call for photos and stories and more.

WSU water plan falls short in many ways

WSU Water Plan:  Friday is deadline for public comment

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Washington State University’s plan for protecting its Pullman campus water supply is too optimistic about the potential for storing spring runoff as a supplement to its declining groundwater supply, conservationists say. Friday is the final day for public comment on the university’s draft water plan, which the state Department of Health requires it to write.

Conservationists have concerns about the draft WSU Water Plan that include:

  • Too much reliance on the possibility of storing spring runoff from the Palouse River underground. A suitable underground place to store the water has yet to be found, and the method has not worked well for other communities in Washington.
  • Lack of water meters on 57% of campus buildings and landscaping. WSU is behind in meeting the state requirement to track how much water is used, and monitor for leaks. WSU has failed in the 13 years since the Municipal Water Law was enacted to meter all of its service connections.
  • Lack of a solid water conservation messaging plan, so that students, faculty and the greater community can be part of the solution.
  • Continued deference to Palouse Ridge Golf Club. The university course, operated by Course Co. Inc., uses 10 percent of water on campus. The water for the golf course, as well as the electrical energy to pump it, is provided to the corporation free of charge. Nowhere else can a private entrepreneur get 48 million gallons of water a year for free to run its business.
  • The university has failed in its attempts to get state funding for a system that would use reclaimed water for golf course irrigation and other campus landscaping. WSU could easily fund this project were it serious about conserving our groundwater.

Conservationists also questioned a report, cited in WSU’s water plan, that contends that the aquifer is being recharged nearly as quickly as the water is pumped. According to the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee, the aquifer is dropping nearly seven-tenths of a foot each year.

“While WSU Pullman is using less water than it has in the past, it is falling short in many ways,” said John Osborn with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy. “WSU shows little regard for its neighbors, Pullman and Moscow, Idaho as well as nearby rural residents, as the Grande Ronde Aquifer on which all rely, continues to drop. Science can’t say when the water will drop too low to pump, but they know that day of reckoning will come.”

“Relying on recharging the pure 10,000 year-old water in the aquifer with contaminated surface water is a questionable strategy,” said Al Poplawsky, chair of Sierra Club’s Palouse Group. “Conservation of our pristine, irreplaceable water should come first.”

The Grande Ronde aquifer, the sole source of water for many in the Palouse Basin, is very high quality ice-age water. When Pullman was being developed, there were artesian wells. Now, the water is far underground. “This is not a resource to be squandered,” noted David Hall. “WSU has conserved water in some areas, but it should be more aggressive with continued conservation and education goals.”

Nearby resident Scotty Cornelius also has a well in the Grande Ronde Aquifer, and his water level is dropping at the same rate. “Unlike WSU, I can’t afford to drill 800 feet to water. WSU frequently describes itself as oriented toward sustainability initiatives, but our declining aquifer is the biggest sustainability issue on the Palouse and WSU is squandering this precious resource.”