Ecology Department issues orders to measure water, offers assistance

Department of Ecology News Release 

OLYMPIA 4/1/02 - The Department of Ecology (Ecology) has moved another step closer to measuring 80 percent of the water being used in the 16 river basins in Washington where fish runs are the most threatened.

Between March 31 and Dec. 31, the department will send orders to about 1,000 farms, irrigation districts, municipalities and other large-scale water users directing them to install measuring devices and periodically report their water use to Ecology. The first round of orders is in the mail.

The legislature has provided $3.4 million in grant money to help water users comply with a 1993 law requiring those who make significant surface and groundwater withdrawals to meter their use. Under grant criteria developed by Ecology, eligible candidates can receive up to $50,000 to purchase, install and calibrate new water-measuring devices.

"Water-measuring information will help protect the rights of people, businesses and communities who are using the water they have a right to, and it should help deter illegal water use," said Joe Stohr, who supervises Ecology's water-resources program. He said his department is targeting areas where water shortages or urban growth and development are causing the most problems for fish.

"Many of the affected water users are already measuring their water, but they haven't had to report their readings to Ecology before" Stohr said. "This is new for all of us. For now, the water users will have to send their reports on paper, but by next year we'll have an Internet option available."

The water-metering orders are part of an agreement reach in Thurston County Superior Court last year after several environmental and fishing organizations filed suit, alleging Ecology was out-of-compliance with existing state law. On Jan. 21, the agency updated its water-measuring rules and agreed to send out its first batch of compliance orders by March 31.

The 16 basins being targeted are:

  • Western Washington - Cedar-Sammamish, Chambers-Clover, Duwamish-Green, Elwha-Dungeness, Nooksack, Puyallup-White, Quilcene-Snow and Snohomish.
  • Eastern Washington -- Lower Yakima, Methow, Middle Snake, Naches, Okanogan, Upper Yakima, Walla Walla and Wenatchee.

Contact: Curt Hart, public information manager, 360-407-7139; pager, 360-455-2073

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