When Mark Solomon in his Town Crier II column (Opinion, June 7) stated water must come first before development, he implied there should be a plan detailing where the water will come from to support the development. I agree a plan for supplying water for the coming regional development is needed. Such a plan presupposes a level of understanding about the water challenge in the Moscow-Pullman area and a reasonable consideration of the options. This is just what the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee is about.
First, the region does not have a water crisis. Yes, the deep aquifer system water levels have been slowly declining for many years, but there is time for sound planning to deal with the decline in a rational, economical manner.
Second, sufficient water falls on the area as rain and snow to handle all foreseeable development. Approximately 650,000 gallons per year fall on each acre in the Moscow area.
Thus the 77 acres of proposed Thompson development should receive about 50 million gallons in precipitation each year and the 220 acres of proposed Hawkins development should receive about 140 million gallons per year. Using best available technology to capture and efficiently use the precipitation, the developments could be largely or entirely self-sufficient in water for a price.
Third, the real water issue is the “cost” to capture and make these unused waters from precipitation and runoff available for municipal use. How much are we collectively willing to pay for quality supplemental water to stabilize the deep aquifer water levels and support development? And who should bear the cost: existing users, new users, businesses (which is mostly us) or some combination? What are growth and development worth to the region and the communities?
Fourth, conservation “creates” water for additional domestic use without increasing the total supply of available water. It allows the existing supply to go farther through more efficient use, but growth and development will eventually require supplemental water supplies.
For the past 18 years, conservation by the pumping entities — Moscow, Pullman, Colfax, Palouse, UI and WSU — has maintained total pumping from the deep aquifer system at a constant without stabilizing deep aquifer water levels. These facts strongly suggest a need for supplemental water in addition to conservation.
Fifth, PBAC has a timetable for developing a plan not only to stabilize the deep aquifer water levels but also ensure a long-term quality water supply for the region. PBAC always has encouraged conservation but believes the entities will need to find supplemental water sources to stabilize the deep aquifer water levels and meet the increased demand from regional growth. PBAC is seeking input from all sources: Water Resource Inventory Area, Citizens Advisory Group, Waters of the West, state agencies and the public to arrive at the best plan for the region.
Sixth, I commend Solomon and associates for publicly encouraging conservation, but I also challenge them to help PBAC and WRIA and WOW evaluate the options for providing supplemental water to the region.
How should more extensive conservation and the development of supplemental water supplies be funded? Moscow increased sewer rates more than threefold to finance the recent upgrade to the waste water treatment plant.
A three-fold increase in current water rates could procure a lot of supplemental water, but the challenge is to provide the supplemental water more economically. There is plenty of water available for a price. We are not a water limited area. But without committed funding, progress toward the best plan will continue to be slow and frustrating to many.
Finally, cooperation in developing a long-range water management plan is critical.
Funds and manpower are in far too short supply to dissipate in needless controversy. There is another water summit Oct. 3 where various options can be positively presented in a public forum.
Anyone willing to help should contact a Latah or Whitman county commissioner or the Palouse Conservation District.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
"Palouse region doesn’t have a water crisis"
Mark "King" Solomon believes that the Hawkins development in the corridor will never be built because of water issues (thus easing his conscience for opposing Wal-mart and ruining Moscow's economy, I suppose). But he is dead wrong. Larry Kirkland, a technical advisor for the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee, disabused the notion of a Palouse "water crisis" in yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News.