Fishy Water Crisis All Wet
By Art Black
Last summer bureaucrats fueled the wide-spread fear that since the snow pack was gone, it was not going to return. That meant that unless we took draconian measures and trusted bureaucrats to save us from ourselves we would quickly run out of water. PUD's solution was to raise water rates.
Well, now Chicken Little can stop yelling 'The sky is not falling. The sky is not falling'. After near record precipitation the Olympic snowpack is back. PUD can lower their water rates, and all can return to normal. Right.
For those unaware, the bureaucrats are playing a really nasty game of 'We have to take control of your water supply, otherwise we'll run out of water and lots of fish will never be born'. Read: We have to grow our controlling bureaucracy. (See Weeping Eagle's 'The Fish Story' elsewhere on this site.)
The crux of the water issue is the Washington state 'Water Rights Inventory Act' (WRIA - pronounced wire-ah). This requires bureaucrats in every watershed area to develop water management rules. But it's much more than that.
Here are direct quotes from the November 2005 Clallam county WRIA document: "Develop a legal mechanism to allocate an agreed-upon amount of saved water to development, ... Emphasize water service to new development from the existing larger systems (City of Sequim, Clallam PUD) wherever feasible, with the goal of integrated water delivery systems, rather than a series of separate and local water delivery systems. ... New exempt wells should be drilled only where public water service is unavailable. ... If new development lies within a reasonable distance from the boundaries of the service area of a public water system, that public water system should have been contacted and requested to provide service prior to land use approval. " But then there are all kinds of exceptions to appease other bureaucrats, including the Indian tribes.
That's just the beginning. The initial demands would have been far more restrictive but for the opposing efforts of the well-drilling industry. Ultimately, the bureaucrats don't want private wells, they want you to pay for large excessive water distribution systems, and then pay them for your water, and then they want to control your water access and usage. They want to stop any new wells from being drilled. They want to monitor water withdrawal from all existing wells. They want to charge you for your water well withdrawal. Ultimately, they want to put all private water wells out of commission, and make everyone dependent on public bureaucratic water systems.
And, for those of you interested in water quality and free choice as to whether toxic chemicals are added to your drinking water, public system water has to be chlorinated and is probably also fluoridated. Your well water need not have any toxic additives.
How can they do all this? The starting point is the cute little fish that somebody declares 'endangered' regardless of how important they are from an economic or aesthetic basis. Then bureaucrats start looking for things people have done to their native waters, or not done, as explanations for why there are so few fish.
The bureaucrats want to seize control of everyone's water to protect the fish. That's right. If the bureaucrats are going to save the fish, they have to control your water rights. And get more money from you.
Here's a verbatim quote from "A Review of Salmon Recovery Planning Efforts To Date ...":
"The listing of various salmonid populations under the Endangered Species Act has obligated ... plans to protect these species against extinction, as well as provide for the species recovery. "
Here are the most important recommended actions:
"7. Preserve the hydrologic capacity of any intermittent or permanent stream to pass peak flows.
10. Assure that water supply demands for the new development can be met without impacting flow needed for threatened salmonids either directly or through groundwater withdrawals, and that any new water diversions are positioned and screened in a way that prevents injury or death of salmonids.
11. Provide all necessary enforcement, funding, reporting, and implementation mechanisms. "
What do those words mean? They mean that if they can infer that the teaspoon of water you withdraw from your personal well impacts the Dungeness river flow they can stop that teaspoon withdrawal to save the salmon. They are using little fish as a reason to control your well water. They have already spent lots of public money studying this issue to their benefit.
Simple common sense says that your water usage is your water usage regardless of whether it's from your well or a "public water service". It makes no difference to the well-being of the little fish whether the water you use comes from a public water service or your personal well. Only to the bureaucrats. They want control, and more of your money.
They also conveniently ignore the fact that a large public system requires much different, more expensive, potentially unstable wells. Private wells spread throughout the aquifer, each of which satisfies a much smaller requirement, have a larger aggregate capacity.
How can they do this? Their case is built on the notions of "hydrologic continuity" and/or "hydrologic conductance". And what that means is the bureaucrats are spending your money on studies that build a case for the notion that your water well is directly connected to the Dungeness river. The water you withdraw from your well affects the water level in the Dungeness and its ability to support fish spawns. They prove that by arguing that the higher the water pumping capacity of your well, the faster water flows underground. The faster the water flows underground, the more connected your well is to the Dungeness river. As in every drop you pump out of your well impacts everybody else including the little fish in the rivers and creeks. Is that absurd or what????? That's what the bureaucrats are doing with your money.
They have also commissioned studies that say that for part of the river's flow, water comes out of the ground to feed the river, and for other parts water leaves the river into the ground to feed the aquifer. But they never say what the bottom line is. Only that they're connected.
The real bottom line is that their studies are self-serving bad-science whose sole purpose is to justify bureaucratic ends.
A real study would start with the total watershed dynamics: what is the total annual precipitation? How much goes into the river? How much goes into the ground and the aquifer? And where does the rest go? How much water is in the aquifer? How many people can the local aquifer serve on a sustainable basis?
Here are some facts that the bureaucrats would just as soon you not know, or be able to connect. The Dungeness watershed drains about 200 square miles of mountain region into about 65 square miles of coastal valley. While the annual rainfall in the northernmost valley averages only 16 inches a year, the rainfall in the southernmost part is 30 inches. And in the mountain region it quickly increases to well in excess of 100 inches a year. And that's been feeding the aquifer for thousands and thousands of years. The aquifer covers an area far in excess of the valley proximate to the Dungeness. Abundant well water exists throughout the area including elevations well above those of the Dungeness river, even though finding water in some foothill areas can be more difficult. Aquifer charging water inflow in excess of it's capacity that is not withdrawn results in outflow into the Juan de Fuca Straits.
We can estimate that the watershed receives in excess of 400 billion gallons of water a year. The Dungeness river only drains off about 90 billion gallons a year, or about 22%. The aquifer water capacity is probably in the trillions of gallons of water. But no bureaucrat has chosen to estimate its capacity.
If we assume 50 billion gallons of aquifer water are available annually for use without aquifer depletion, the aquifer can support between 300,000 and 800,000 households depending on the numbers you use for estimating annual household consumption. This does not consider an estimated 70% aquifer recharge from septic systems. Of course public sewer systems probably return much less recharge. Please note that a public water system depending on a limited number of wells can not come any place close to this capacity. But it is available through private wells.
But that's not the end of it. The bureaucrats are exhausting all possible ways to spend our money on what to do or undo to save the little fish. How many untold millions have already been spent on such things as restoring waterways and byways, and fish hatcheries?
Now there is talk of undoing the dams on the Elwha river, to the tune of someplace between $70 million and $185 million, depending on what you read and whether it involves one or two dams. That's between $1,000 and $3,000 for every resident of Clallam County.
Here are some questions for you. How much fresh water do salmon need to be able to swim up to be able to spawn? And what percentage of spawn will be lost if that fresh water distance is shortened? I've seen salmon return to creeks less than one mile long, spawn and die. What happens if they hit a barricade before they're done swimming? Do they refuse to spawn? Please show me a scientific study that answers that question.
As we watch the predicted series of bureaucratic events unfold, just remember, these are your bureaucrats. You elected them. And by your silence and inaction, you endorse their actions.