Ensure we have enough clean water available to sustain farms, fish and people.

With our population expected to grow by 75,000 in the next 20 years, it is critically important that our county takes the lead on water issues that position Whatcom County for a sustainable future — instead of a future of water shortages, failing crops, and county-wide water rights battles.

Our streams and bays are in trouble. High levels of fecal coliform threaten our health, shellfish farms, recreation opportunities, and local economy. Development is destroying wetlands and waterfront habitats, diminishing survival rates of salmon and aquatic life. Whatcom County must assert a leadership role in cleaning up our waters, leading on coordination, education, and enforcement.

Whatcom County faces serious challenges with availability of water. There is not enough water in streams to support fish populations essential to the Salish Sea ecosystem and to honor tribal treaty rights. In 2015, our county was included in a statewide drought declaration. The severity and frequency of drought is likely to increase as a result of climate change, and we currently have no plans in place for dealing with these changes. Whatcom County must better coordinate the management and planning of water quantity. 

2016 Comprehensive Plan

On August 9, 2016, the Whatcom County Council adopted an updated Comprehensive Plan. The plan includes policies and language that:
  • Quantify water usage throughout the county to promote water conservation (Policies 11J4, 5 and 6)

  • Connect land use and development decisions with water availability (Policy 2A-15) 

  • Acknowledge the importance of the shellfish industry and give it the same weight as industries like agriculture, forestry, and mining (Chapter 8: Resource Lands, Marine Resource Lands section)

  • Protect the Lake Whatcom Watershed by preventing UGA designations or expansions and implementing a funding source for stormwater projects (Chapter 11: Environment, Lake Whatcom Watershed section)

  • Develop and implement plans to comply with Department of Ecology in-stream flow rules (Policy 11J-3)
  • Track wetland mitigation efforts and establish a baseline of wetland functions to track and prevent net loss and avoid cumulative impacts (Policies 11N-8 & 11N-9)

  • Work with farmers to implement measures to prevent livestock from degrading riparian and instream habitat by fencing off livestock from streams and supporting alternative watering systems (Policy 8E-2)

  • Acknowledge Whatcom County's water resources face climate change related risks (Policy 11D-1)

  • Incorporate knowledge of wellhead protection areas, critical aquifer recharge areas, and high-priority watersheds into management plans that limit activities impacting water quality (Policies 11H-6 & 11H-7)

  • Develop and implement comprehensive stormwater management programs by prioritizing polluting areas and planning retrofits in areas that impact sensitive waters (Policy 11I-12)