Department of Ecology News Release - August 25, 2010

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Ecology seeks public's help in reforming water management

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is seeking the public's help in finding ways to improve its management of water resources in Washington state for the benefit of current and future water users.

“The era of cheap, abundant water supplies is over,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant. “With population growth, the need for economic development, the challenges of restoring fish runs, and coping with climate change, unless we change the way we manage our water resources, there won't be enough water to meet essential needs. Washington's future quality of life depends on water, and if we don't make some changes, that quality of life will suffer.”

To engage the public in a discussion of the issues surrounding water supply management, Ecology will launch the Water Smart Washington Online Forum on Monday, Aug. 30, 2010. The website will go live before noon.

Ecology is considering significant changes in how the Water Resources Program is operated and funded. The program's ongoing mission is to work with Washington communities in support of sustainable water resources management to meet the present and future water needs of people and the natural environment. Efforts to fulfill the mission have been handicapped in recent years by inconsistent funding resulting from dependence on the State General Fund and the need to update 19th century-based water laws which are inadequate to meet 21st Century challenges.

Ecology is considering ways to make the Water Resources Program more effective and efficient such as:

The Online Forum will invite participants to answer a “Question of the Week” about how to improve funding and operations of the Water Resources Program. A sample question:

“Currently state taxpayers, through the State General Fund, pay for more than 98 percent of the cost of processing water right applications for agriculture or commercial uses, with the cost of processing averaging about $10,000 per application. Should those who want to use the water of Washington pay a larger portion or even the full cost of processing their water right applications?”

Comments and suggestions made in the Forum will be posted online and questions on water management regulations and reform will be answered. Contributions to the Forum will be categorized and archived and will help shape the policy initiatives Ecology is considering and the proposed legislation that Ecology will be requesting to reform water resource management in Washington state.

The introductory video for the Online Forum is currently available on YouTube.

Ecology will announce the Water Smart Washington Online Forum Web site in a news release the morning of activation.

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Media Contact: Dan Partridge, 360-407-7139 (desk); 360-480-5722 (cell); dpar461@ecy.wa.gov (e-mail). 

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