From endangered orcas, to healthy salmon populations that feed them, to the food on our tables, we all depend on having a reliable supply of water in streams, aquifers, and flowing from our taps. The pressures on our local water supply are numerous. Climate change is reducing the snowpack that feeds rivers in the summer, while simultaneously increasing demand for agricultural irrigation as summers get hotter and drier. Our region’s growing population adds the need for more residential water.
To learn more about what our community thinks about local water supply issues, impacts, and potential solutions, the Clean Water Team at RE Sources conducted a community questionnaire, “Better Understanding Whatcom Water Use”, during spring and summer 2018.
We’ve been busy diving into the results, reading through the thoughtful comments, and having follow-up conversations to learn more about the wide range of perspectives and experiences people shared. We’ve also had some one-on-one conversations with local farmers and gardeners, adding valuable insight to our water challenges and helping expand the list of potential solutions.
We wanted to share a few of the main takeaways we gleaned from 653 community members:
- Many people in rural Whatcom County are already experiencing water shortages, with wells running dry in the late summer. These are our friends and neighbors, and for them (as well as the salmon and the cultures that depend on them), this is not a problem of the future — it is the current reality.
- 86% of respondents said they believe water conservation is an important issue and support the implementation of water conservation measures on a community level.
- 87% have tried reducing their personal water use at some point. Two-thirds of those reported doing so because they were concerned about our future water supply.
- Respondents offered numerous creative, thoughtful ideas and strategies that can help us improve the health of our streams and safeguard an equitable water supply for all.
In alignment with the expressed community interest in water conservation as an approach, we recently worked with the Environmental Caucus (which represents environmental interests on the committee tasked with restoring streamflows to the Nooksack watershed) and rural residents to ask the Whatcom County Council to set aside funds to start a County-wide Water Conservation Program for residential water users. The council agreed in early December, and we look forward to working with staff in 2019 to make this program successful.
We’re excited to continue our work with the community on water supply.