by Daily Record Editorial Board
It’s been a big week for water issues in Central Washington and beyond.
The Yakima River Basin integrated water management plan was highlighted at a White House Water Summit on Tuesday as part of United National World Water Day. The summit drew attention to a number of issues, from drought to the water quality crisis in Flint, Mich., with an emphasis on what the federal government could to help.
The Yakima River integrated plan was presented as an example of how cooperation and collaboration can result in better management of water for economic and environmental benefits. The Yakima plan, which involves conservation and water storage projects, has brought together irrigators, the Yakama Nation, business interests, conservation groups and federal, state and local government agencies.
It’s nice to see the project get some well deserved national attention.
It’s also important to realize we’re still in the early stages of the plan. Significant funding and leadership will be needed to get a long list of projects off the ground. The entire plan is supposed to cost $4 billion and take 30 years to complete.
It’s also fair to note that there’s been some opposition to parts of the plan, namely the Bumping Lake water storage project and a permanent pumping plant at Lake Kachess. There’s also been objection to the overall cost of the effort.
That’s where leadership comes in, both at the local and federal level. Our elected officials are going to have a tough road ahead to keep the players (and non-players) on the path of compromise and collaboration. They will need support.
The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement project in Oregon also was lauded initially for its collaborative approach, but it’s been a tough road for that effort, which includes dam removal. Nothing about water in the West is easy.
As part of the summit, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a study about the future of water supplies in the Columbia River basin. It found that warming temperatures will continue across the basin. While there will not be significant changes in the mean annual precipitation, the timing will change.
At three areas studied in detail — the Columbia River above The Dalles, Snake River at Brownlee Dam and the Yakima River at Parker — snow water equivalent is expected to decline.
The assessment projected a trend that indicated there would be an increase in runoff from December to March and a decrease in runoff from April to July.
The big picture of the Yakima plan is to make sure people and nature can continue to flourish and thrive in Central Washington for generations to come, even as climate change affects our way of life. It’s a tall order. This week’s events are a reminder that everyone needs to keep talking.
Originally posted at the Ellensburg Daily Record, March 24, 2016.