Water rule open houses slated - The rule sets limits for new exempt wells in rural areas

By Andy Porter of the Union-Bulletin


Walla Walla, WA - Homeowners, real estate agents, builders and others concerned about a new water rule can quiz experts and regulators on the topic this week at a pair of open houses.

Hosted by the state Department of Ecology, the meetings will address concerns and details of the Instream Flow Rule, which went into effect this month.

The open houses will be held starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday at Walla Walla Community College.

One of the new rule's major changes is restrictions for new exempt wells in rural areas zoned for one or more residences per 10 acres.

The restrictions cut back water drawn from exempt wells in the shallow aquifer from 5,000 gallons per day to 1,250 gallons per day. Another requirement bans outdoor use of water, such as irrigation, from May through November unless withdrawals are compensated from another source.

The new rule does not affect people with existing water rights, those who are able to obtain a water rights transfer or those who can drill into the deep basalt aquifer.

To help homeowners obtain water to mitigate withdrawals for outdoor use, Ecology officials have set up a state mitigation plan.
Another requirement is that new exempt well users in the high density areas must install a meter to record their water use.

The aim of the new regulations is to prevent further degradation of stream-flow levels in the river basin, which includes the Walla Walla and Touchet rivers as well as the Mill Creek system.

In a release, Bill Neve, Ecology's regional watermaster said ``we've tried to strike a balance between allowing water for new growth and protecting instream resources with this new rule.''


The open houses on the new Instream Flow Rule for the Walla Walla River basin will be held starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at room 185 in the Walla Walla Community College conference center, 500 Tausick Way.


State Department of Ecology: www.ecy.wa.gov



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