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Deep-well irrigation dries up kid-fishing opportunities

FISHING — In recent weeks I've explored some of the fishing and hunting ramifications of water management in Washington, especially the unsustainable impacts of deep-well irrigation in central Washington.

While listing the loss of water and fishing opportunity in Pacific Lake and other waters, I failed to mention one other troubling example.

The 2015 Wild Goose Bill Days celebration in Wilbur, Washington, had to cancel its children's fishing derby in May because the local organizers could not fill the area behind the town's dam to accommodate the trout they'd purchased. Volunteer Wally Kluver explained in an email.

"In short, there was not enough water coming down the creek to have the fishing derby. This has happened before and we were able to draw off enough water from the town supply to provide enough water to have the event.

"Our town water was some 80 feet below normal level and therefore we had to cancel the fishing derby.

"This may be happening all over the pacific Northwest. As you are well aware the "potholes" that use to all over this area have dried up many years ago. Their names are mostly forgotten. Places like "Wagner Lake" that we used to ice skate on in the winter dried up years ago. Many stories and many changes."

City offers water conservation tips for summer lawn care

Is it hot enough for ya?

The City of Spokane Water Department is offering tips to citizens on how to keep a green lawn while holding down the cost of their water bills.

“Citizens can maintain their lawns and landscaping without extensive watering, even with temperatures in the 90s,” says Dan Kegley, the City’s Water Department Director. “We want to help our customers make decisions that keep their bills more affordable.”

From the City, here are some watering tips when the weather is hot:

Don’t sprinkle between noon and 6 p.m. Some experts estimate that 50 percent of the water evaporates when sprinkling in the heat of the day. Morning watering is considered best as the water doesn’t sit on the roots overnight, which can cause problems with root rot or fungal disease.

Don’t water on windy days. Again, much of the water will be lost to evaporation or blown away from your lawn.

Consider “grasscycling,” leaving your lawn clippings on your lawn to act as a natural mulch. The clippings will retain moisture and return nutrients to the soil, improving soil texture and water retention.

Sustainable Works and the Water Department collaborate to help conserve

Even though it's been raining this week, mark my words: Summer is upon us. 

So prepare to "Slow The Flow." What does that mean? With a new rate structure in effect water customers are encouraged to conserve - especially in dry months. The City of Spokane Water Department and SustainableWorks, a non-profit organization that promotes energy efficiency, are partnering to help you save water.

City water customers who participate in Sustainable Works’ “Save Energy Today” audit program will receive a water conservation kit, provided by the City of Spokane, along with the energy-saving products and recommendations provided through the audit.

The City continues to encourage residents to “Slow the Flow” and conserve water. Earlier this year, the Spokane City Council adopted new water efficiency goals for indoor and outdoor water use. The City is working to reduce indoor residential water use by 0.5 percent a year and outdoor water use by residents, businesses, and government by 2 percent per year.

State delays water curtailment order

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Department of Water Resources has delayed an order to shut off water to south-central Idaho groundwater pumpers. The Times-News reports (http://bit.ly/1iCYc5w) that the curtailment set for Monday is now delayed so officials can review a second mitigation plan submitted by the Idaho Groundwater Appropriators. Idaho Department of Water Resources' director Gary Spackman signed an order in January telling 2,300 water-rights holders they will have to shut down irrigation if they can't reach a compromise with Rangen Inc., a Hagerman-based fish farm and feed producer. The company says its flow of spring water has dropped significantly. Courts have ruled that removing groundwater reduces the flows from springs, violating the water rights of those with earlier claims. State officials plan to schedule a hearing to consider the latest mitigation plan.

What a difference 60 days makes: From ‘poor’ irrigation season to ‘normal’

In just 60 days, southwestern Idaho has gone from what looked to be a "poor" irrigation season, with much lower levels of water available than normal, to a "normal" water season with full irrigation allotments and flows. "It is amazing how quick things can turn around," said Tim Page, project manager for the Boise Project Board of Control, which oversees five area irrigation districts. That was thanks to the big late-season snowfall in the high country that extended the season and built snowpacks up from subpar levels to healthy ones; click below for the Boise Project Board of Control's full irrigation season announcement. It includes this news: Starting April 9, the project will begin filling more than 460 canals and laterals in Ada and Canyon counties, meaning it's time to caution kids not to play in dangerous canals. 

March precipitation amounts ranged from 103% to 190% of normal, according to the Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The water year started with four dry months from October to January,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist with the Idaho NRCS. “The water supply made an amazing recovery due to the February and March precipitation.” However, he noted that some areas of the state still face water shortages, including the Big Wood, Big Lost, Little Lost, Oakley, Owyhee, and Salmon Falls basins.

Storms paint better picture of region’s snowpack

WEATHER — February's storms are loading the region's mountains with snow, presenting a better picture for outdoor recreation that depends on water, including anglers and river runners.

However, we need another snow dance or two for the Idaho Panhandle.  March can be a good month.

Here's the report from NOAA that goes with the map graphic above:

Considerable snowfall across the region in February served to pump up the water content in the area's snowpack. This image depicts the current Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) as a percent of normal as measured by the region's snow telemetry (SNOWTEL) sensors.

SNOWTEL is operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The data from these sensors is available online.  

One week left for comment period on Army Corps’ Snake River dredging plan



Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) – a document that purports to analyze the future of the lower Snake River waterway and its continued use as a barge transportation corridor.

In its DEIS, the Army Corps focuses on dredging as its best option for maintaining the waterborne transportation system.

Enter Save Our wild Salmon, in collaboration with the Nez Perce Tribe and a number of local organizations who are now reviewing the DEIS and the comment deadline is March 26th.

Sun People Dry Goods to show the film “Blue Gold” today at 4pm

Without a doubt, our world is shifting towards a water crisis. But what are the environmental and political implications of the planet's dwindling water supply? Will there be wars fought over water? What are some of the success stories of smart use and how do we make the case for better stewardship?

Sun People Dry Goods is helping move this dialogue along with a free showing of Blue Gold: World Water Wars. From the film description: In every corner of the globe, we are polluting, diverting, pumping, and wasting our limited supply of fresh water as population and technology grows. The rampant overdevelopment of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the finite supply, resulting in the desertification of the earth. Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geo-political map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars.  

The film goes from 4-5:30pm and Sun People Dry Goods is located at 32 West 2nd Ave.

Trailer after the jump. 

Happy World Water Day!

You say it's World Water Day? Well, happy World Water Day to you! Annually held on March 22nd, the theme this year is "Water and Food Security." Check this video interview with Pasquale Steduto, Deputy Director of FAO's Land and Water Division, explains why his organization is taking the lead in this year's World Water Day observance and outlines the importance of water for feeding a growing population.


Stuck driver survives on M&Ms, water

BURLEY, Idaho (AP) — Officials in south-central Idaho say a Texas woman may have spent up to a week in a rental car stuck in a dairy wastewater pond after taking a wrong turn as she searched for a hotel in Burley.

Cassia County officials say 61-year-old Lynn S. Keesler of Houston was evaluated by emergency medical technicians, but refused to go to the hospital.

The sheriff's report says Keesler thought she had been stranded for three to five days, but a deputy gave her directions to the hotels in Burley on Jan. 15. She walked to a nearby house for help on Jan. 22.

The Times-News reports the woman told officers she lived on M&Ms and water and stayed in the car because she'd been told not to leave her vehicle if she became stranded.

Take notice Spokane: July is Smart Irrigation Month

You might've seen the "Slow the Flow" advertisement on the Spokesman-Review and thought, huh? What does that mean? With a new water rate structure in effect for 2011, Spokane water customers are encouraged to conserve- especially in dry months like July which is Smart Irrigation Month. Under the new rate structure in Spokane, large water users will pay more per unit of water than customers who use less water. At the same time, small volume users will see their bills go down under the new structure. This is relief for the 2,500 low income Spokane residents whose water was shut off in 2010. (Check out Taylor Weech's excellent sustainability column in Out There Monthly on water usage.)

To help customers make changes, the City is offering up to a $375 water bill credit for installing a new or upgrading their existing underground sprinkler system with a Smart controller. Smart controls measure the moisture content in the air and soil, and turn off your system when watering isn’t needed. For details, call 625-7800 or check out the Water Stewardship page. Here are some other great ways to save water:

-Don’t sprinkle between noon and 6 p.m. Some experts estimate that 50 percent of the water evaporates when sprinkling in the heat of the day. Early morning watering is best.

-Don’t let your hose run. While washing your car, use a nozzle or shut off the faucet until you spray. Running a 5/8-inch hose for 30 minutes wastes up to 150 gallons of water.

-Don’t water streets and sidewalks. Adjust your sprinkler to avoid the pavement; otherwise, evaporation will claim all the water that doesn’t end up on your lawn.

Protecting and preserving our water resources should be a long-term goal for all users. After the jump, check out more information on Smart Irrigation Month.

Get Lit! tomorrow night: Maude Barlow and Down To Earth essay winners

Tomorrow night, as part of Get Lit!, Maude Barlow will be here for The Battle Of Blue Gold at Lair Auditorium at Spokane Community College, 7pm. And Down To Earth is proud to have the winners of our Earth Day Essay Contest read their pieces prior to her appearance.

Barlow is a Canadian author, activist and a hero for water rights. She is the national chairperson of The Council of Canadians, a citizens’ advocacy organization with members and chapters across Canada. She is also the co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, which works internationally for water. She chairs the board of Washington-based Food & Water Watch and is an executive member of the San Francisco–based International Forum on Globalization and a councilor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council.

Most of us don't realize the average human needs thirteen gallons of water a day - but the average North American uses almost 160 gallons. And that New Mexico might not have any fresh water in ten years. Or that in less than fiteen years, two-thirds of of the global population will suffer from water shortages. What does a water shortage mean? "Well, we already have water refugees in the world. Thousands and thousands of people who are seeking water and so moving from where they have run out of water, or they created deserts, to places where there is water," said Barlow at Big Think. "Already, there are two billion people living in parts of the world that don’t have enough water. Well, one billion who have absolutely no access to clean water at all. So, they die. No can't afford water, because they are pricing it."


The water wars: Franklin County farmers sue over large feedlot’s water demand…

Local farmers today filed a lawsuit against a large-scale feedlot in Franklin County, saying that the cattle operation could use hundreds of thousands of gallons of groundwater a day in one of the driest areas of the state.

The case could mushroom into more than just a Franklin County water fight. A critical change in water law came when Attorney General Rob McKenna — widely assumed to be a future candidate for governor — issued a controversial opinion in 2005. Wells for watering livestock have for decades been exempt from many water regulations, but the state Department of Ecology had long said that such wells are limited to pumping 5,000 gallons a day. In response to a query from Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls and then-Rep. (now Sen.) Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake, McKenna, however, said that Ecology didn’t have the right to automatically limit such wells to 5,000 gallons. (McKenna also, however, noted that Ecology could step in and impose limits on any water withdrawal in critical problem areas. He also pointed out that lawmakers can modify water law however they wish.)

Now, according to the Spokane-basede Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Easterday Ranches Inc. wants to build a feedlot for up to 30,000 head of cattle, using the stock-watering exemption to pump up to 600,000 gallons a day.

“after over 100 years of conservative farming on some of the driest land in Washington, our lives and our livelihoods are in jeopardy from this huge industrial feedlot,” dryland wheat farmer Scott Collin said in a press release announcing the lawsuit today.

(The full text of the press release is below, after the jump.)

Another dispatch from the water wars…

There’s another interesting farmers-versus-environmentalists water battle shaping up in the statehouse this year.

Farm groups are backing a reform that sounds utterly common-sense: changing decades-old laws that require farmers to use every drop of their water allocation or, after a few years of failing to do so, losing that valuable water right.

“It’s better to leave it in the ground than pump out on the ground and let it evaporate,” Craig Grub, with the Spokane County Cattlemen, told lawmakers at a yearing recently.

But it’s not that simple, environmental groups responded. They say that allowing people to sit on their water rights indefinitely, instead of putting them to beneficial use, would allow people who don’t actually need water to keep an unfair hold on it.

State Rep. John McCoy, D-Marysville, repeatedly made it clear that he wants wells metered to ensure that people aren’t pumping too much.

“Without meters,” he asked cattle ranchers, “how can you tell us that your’e conserving water and only using what you’re supposed to?”

A new round of an old fight: water dispute pits cattle industry against environmental groups…

Environmentalists and cattlemen clashed Thursday over a decades-old law that allows largely unlimited pumping from wells – with no permit – as long as the water is used for livestock.

To ranchers, that’s a common-sense exception that helps agriculture and dates back many decades.

To environmental groups and some Indian tribes, it’s a glaring loophole that’s being wrongly applied to industrial-scale feedlots.

“We don’t have water left to be giving away exempt water rights in large quantities,” Spokane environmental attorney Rachael Paschal Osborn told state lawmakers Thursday. If the Legislature wants to encourage the cattle industry and feedlots, she said, “they can go out and buy a water right just like everyone else in this state.”