Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, May 21, 2007

Water of the West

I have received reports from numerous Palousitics readers about a University of Idaho College of Natural Resources Palouse water supply survey in the mail (see image below). As far as I can tell, this is being sent randomly to Pullman and Moscow residents (I have not received one.)

From what I can gather, this survey is part of a new graduate water resources program at UI called "Water of the West." This program was approved by the State Board of Education on April 20, after after receiving a $1.6M Strategic Initiative grant last year.

According to the website:
As part of the Strategic Initiative grant, faculty in the Water Resources Program are applying an integrative process the issue of water resources sustainability in the Palouse Basin. Recent legal and political conflict over development of groundwater in the Palouse basin has increased awareness of potential water management problems that may threaten the sustainability of current water use levels and the potential for future population growth. Urban development is thought to threaten water quality by increasing storm water runoff and degrading wetlands and riparian corridors. Development of monocultural agriculture in the Palouse region may have altered patterns and quality of runoff and infiltration.

From a legal perspective, the Palouse Basin faces numerous issues ranging from jurisdictional issues related to ground and surface water boundaries, to the legal separation between water quality and quantity. The Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) recently held a public meeting in the basin to explore the public interest in adjudicating the Idaho portion of the basin (a process of determining and cataloguing water rights). At the interface between law and policy on the one hand, and science and engineering on the other, are questions concerning the degree of scientific certainty necessary to make decisions, the cost and feasibility of engineering solutions, the legality of their implementation, and the design of institutions to meet these challenges. From a social and economic perspective, the basin faces the problem of planning for future growth in the face of a divided public. Numerous scientists have described the basin’s hydrogeologic complexity and uncertainties in understanding of recharge and connections between the surface and groundwater systems. Finally, like so many water bodies in the West, development has come at the expense of its native habitat.
This survey would appear to be part of gathering the "stakeholder input." If you received one, be sure to let them know the only stake being held is the one being driven into Whitman County's heart by the City of Moscow.

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