Page 2 Satpal Sidhu Water Policy Essay

Page 2 Satpal Sidhu Water Policy Essay

b. Long term bond financing to allow Water Association to expand their service areas, build /upgrade their service infrastructure.

4. Where practical, truck potable water to certain rural residences, which are within five miles of a nearest city limit or water association with certified water supply. Examples are Propane distribution and milk routes of the past.

5. Some areas, where no other alternate methods of domestic water supply are economically viable, shall be allowed to use exempt wells with metering.

6. Review the domestic water supply rules every ten years.

The next big water users are the AG community consisting of variety of crop farmers, dairy farmers, berry farmers, cattle operations and like. The AG sector is the lifeline of our robust and healthy food supply chain. We must not only preserve but enhance their viability for long term security of our food supply and economic wellbeing. We have imprecise data on the overall annual needs of water for this segment. While there are several state statutes / laws hindering the collection of such data for individual farmer or AG operation, we can find amenable ways to get a good handle on the overall annual use. Also, this water use will vary year-to-year as well as crop to crop or operation to operation. The berry and dairy farmers have taken the lead in implementing new technologies like drip irrigation and efficient water use per cattle to reduce the overall water consumption. Such benefits of conservation should provide relief to the rest of the AG community, while they implement water conservation, resource enhancement and water quality measures. My suggestions are:

1. Each of the five Water Irrigation Districts (WIDs) and AG Water Board to assume lead for AG water issues and develop a plan (refer to Hirst and Ebe draft whitepaper)
2. Collect AG water use data (metering) for each WID without identifying individual farm or operation or crop.
3. Study the proposal to pump the water upstream from Nooksack river, before it meets salt water and feed the streams requiring help during summer months.
4. Promote education and use of new technologies for water conservation at all levels. (Learn about Water Stupas from Ladakh in Himalayas)

Now let’s look at the low instream flows during the summer months which impact the salmon spawning and fish habitat. There is no single cause or practice which results in low instream flows. Despite competing arguments about questioning water flow rate setting by DOE, visual observations by some as scientific evidence and many other theories aside, we know this issue is real. This can only be solved, if we work towards a solution and not finding ways of denial and deflection.

The first thing we need to do is start collecting more data. Sooner the better. With the current digital technologies available to us today, we can install several digital gauges in each major fish bearing streams at multiple critical locations to record daily flow rate, water level and temperature, especially during summer. This is very much doable without delay.

One more idea came to me while studying the problem of low instream flows and enhancing the fish habitat. I am not fish expert or hydraulics engineer (I am an electrical engineer!), the idea is to install pre-built small weirs and dams to raise the water level in the critical stretches of each stream, where the higher slope allows water to drain faster, the water level may be raised enough to what is needed. Just two to four feet high well designed and well-placed weirs at several critical portions along the whole length of each fish bearing stream will allow retention of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water inside the stream itself. This does not require expensive construction or land acquisition or decades to build. Beavers do it naturally, but not where we need it and when we need it. Since we are talking only four months of the year, we may solve this issue without huge cost or challenge. I welcome more innovative ideas and comments from everyone to solve the water issues. Look forward to more robust discussion and encouraging local solutions!

For any comments and more information, email ssidhu@co.whatcom.wa.us