Despite Overwhelming Benefits of O&M Water Conservation, Ecology Expresses Strange and Unfounded Concerns

August 24, 2010

OLYMPIA, Wash., Aug. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Washington State Department of Ecology officials are expressing strange and unfounded concerns about irrigators doing an Operations & Maintenance (O&M) Water Conservation Program. In fact, in a recent article (http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2010/08/13/1128908/mid-columbia-farmers-at-odds-with.html), Ken Slattery, Director of the Department of Ecology’s Water Resources Program, claims that “evapotranspiration” (i.e., an alleged loss of water into the atmosphere from evaporation and plant transpiration) could occur if irrigators were to do such a program. However, Slattery goes on to admit that the evapotranspiration loss “is nearly impossible to calculate.”

While Ecology officials have been making odd excuses, the O&M Water Conservation Program has been enjoying widespread support by legislators (http://www.waterworld.com/index/display/article-display/8054631324/articles/waterworld/drinking-water/water-resources/2010/02/Washington-state-legislators-urge-governor-to-approve-water-conservation-program.html), business and community leaders, and water conservation experts across Washington State. On a related note, the Tri-City Herald wrote an editorial urging Ecology to find a way to approve the program (http://www.tri-cityherald.com/962/story/802679.html). More recently, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna indicated at a meeting in Kennewick, Washington that he strongly supported the irrigators’ O&M Water Conservation Program and that current law should allow the irrigators to move ahead with implementing such a program. He went on to say that the State of Washington needs to be incentivizing water conservation within water rights allocation and should not be penalizing irrigators for conserving water (http://pr-usa.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=457649&Itemid=33).

Given all of the support for the O&M Water Conservation Program, Ecology’s lack of enthusiasm about it has surprised many water conservation experts and officials, especially considering that according to Conservation District water managers, the O&M Water Conservation Program would reduce real-time water withdrawals by about 17%. Moreover, the O&M Water Conservation Program would have the following positive benefits if immediately implemented by the Washington State Department of Ecology:

1. Half (8.5%) of the 17% water savings would be put toward new or additional irrigated agriculture water uses while the other half (8.5%) of the water savings would be left in the river to help instream flows.

2. It would immediately help the rural economy in Washington State.

a. No State funding would be needed or required.

b. Water conserved through the O&M Water Conservation proposal would allow for 20,000-30,000 new acres of irrigated agriculture in 2-3 years.

c. It would create an additional annual income of $70-100 million for the state.

3. It would help to avoid new conflicts over Columbia-Snake River Water Management and would provide some relief to the current system of Water Right Changes/Transfers which is not enough to deal with the overall increased demand for water.

4. It would ensure that the water conservation provisions of the 2006 Columbia River Water Management Program work and are used equitably to support both additional agricultural irrigation and instream flows.

5. It would not negatively affect other water rights, existing junior water right holders, or existing state in-stream flow rules.

6. Water transfers would only be seasonal.

7. It would be implemented within the Voluntary Regional Agreement (VRA).

8. It would be applicable to Columbia-Snake System Mainstem and the Odessa Sub-Area and would offer near-term tangible relief for critical water supply needs for large portions of the Odessa Sub-Area.

Despite the above mentioned overwhelming benefits and support for the O&M Conservation Program, the Department of Ecology continues to come up with bizarre and tenuous excuses (i.e., evapotranspiration, water evaporation going to other continents, etc.) about it. On a related note, earlier this year, Ecology was even considering legislation that would’ve forced irrigators to relinquish some of their Columbia River water rights for conserving water through an O&M Water Conservation Program (http://www.teatronaturale.com/article/1465.html).

In addition, it has been almost 5 years ago since the historic Columbia River Legislation passed the Washington State Legislature by a nearly unanimous vote. The legislation contained several water conservation elements (such as the voluntary regional agreement, etc.). In fact, the O&M Water Conservation Program was intended to be part of the implementation of the 2006 Columbia River Legislation. However, Ecology continues to drag its feet or delay implementation of the conservation elements of the legislation.

For more information about the benefits of the O&M Water Conservation Program, please contact Darryll Olsen of the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association at 509-783-1623 or csria@earthlink.net.


The Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association (http://www.csria.org) has become a leader in promoting water conservation and water efficiency in the Pacific Northwest. CSRIA’s membership includes row crop, vineyard, orchard and livestock operations, and we irrigate about 250,000 acres of prime agricultural lands in Washington State, and primarily consists of operations along the Columbia-Snake River system, relying almost exclusively on private investment to build and operate highly efficient, state-of-the-art river pump stations and water distribution systems. Additionally, many municipalities and port districts are members of CSRIA. In economic terms, CSRIA members annually generate about $475-600 million in state and local income by purchasing goods and services from numerous economic sectors, ranging from paper products and food packaging to financial, legal and marketing services.

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SOURCE Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association

Source: newswire

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