Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Stakeholders, administration officials meet
Balance sought in water needs for rural, municipal, ecological uses
By SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News Sept 24, 2010
A group of stakeholders in the nation’s water supply — farmers, businesses, municipalities, environmental agencies, tribes — met with Obama administration officials last week in Washington, D.C., to discuss recommendations on how to balance municipal, rural and ecological water needs.
The recommendations came from the Johnson Foundation Freshwater Summit in June, where a group of 175 experts compiled a set of problems and solutions with water management across the country into a report called “Charting New Waters: A call to action to address U.S. freshwater challenges.”
“It was an example of really diverse interests coming together,” said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance, an advocacy group for Western farmers. “There are entities in this report we have traditionally been adversaries with, but we came together and found common ground . . . to find ways to streamline the regulatory process when it comes to management in water issues.”
Keppen, of Klamath Falls, was among stakeholders invited to the meeting. One of the main topics at the forum, he said, was the need to better coordinate water management between federal agencies.
Keppen used the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement as “a specific example of where innovative things were happening,” coordinating water management among many stakeholders, in particular the Klamath Reclamation Project management plan it establishes.
Without the plan, one agency required water for coho salmon in the Klamath River, another required water for the sucker in Clear Lake Reservoir, and “by the time that got done, there’s not enough water to take care of irrigation needs,” Keppen said. “That’s happening across the board.”
Farmers in California’s Central Valley for years have suffered water shortages because of environmental protection rulings. Three years ago, a severe drought left Southern states fighting over water, and urban areas in the West are increasingly worried about keeping a sufficient water supply for economic and population growth.
Report’s proposed water allocation solutions
The report offers solutions on how to address water allocation issues:
• Improve coordination of management across scales and sectors. Management systems are currently overgrown, and need to be pared down to emphasize state and local cooperation and management.
• Enhance effectiveness of existing regulatory tools. Update and enhance current regulatory tools — Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Farm Bill — so they address contemporary water issues.
• Promote efficient, environmentally wise water management, use and delivery. Launch a dedicated effort to research, develop and implement water technology for energy and treatment to make water use more efficient.
• Ensure decision-making is based on sound science and data. Invest in streamlining data gathering and analysis for consistent, accurate conclusions.
• Employ a long-range adaptive approach to planning and management. Implement flexible strategies so water stakeholders can adapt to constantly changing conditions.
• Account for the full cost of water, and invest in sustainable water infrastructure. Water utilities and other water users should track and report the full cost of their services and consumption to lead to better understanding of the cost to obtain, treat and deliver water.
• Educate the public about challenges and solutions. Teach people about the role of water in municipalities, agriculture and the ecosystem so they can understand its importance.
• Develop and validate methods for freshwater ecosystem services markets. Quantify the benefits that lakes, rivers and wetlands provide, as well as the cost of their detriment.
Page Updated: Wednesday September 29, 2010 02:18 AM Pacific
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