3 Initiatives

Freshwater Restoration

Water should be clean and plentiful for people, fish, and farms.

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124 Waterways in the Nooksack River watershed "impaired" under the Clean Water Act. Learn more

1,325 Miles of streams in the Nooksack River basin protected by RE Sources' North Sound Baykeeper. Meet your North Sound Baykeeper

100,000+ People in Bellingham who get drinking water from Lake Whatcom. How we protect drinking water

From the glaciers to the ground

Whatcom County depends on clean water for healthy communities, a prosperous economy, recreation, and the quality of life that makes this a special place to live. We recognize that the cost of cleaning up pollution far exceeds the cost of preventing it in the first place. The responsibility to protect and restore our waters is an increasingly urgent one. Our freshwater restoration work has grown, and extended its reach to ensure Whatcom County protects our precious water resources — Lake Whatcom, the Salish Sea, and all the rivers, and streams that flow into it — before they are degraded beyond repair.

To that end, we employ a wide range of approaches, including: research and monitoring, empowering community scientists and clean water advocates, working with polluters to change their practices, engaging in public processes, holding unresponsive polluters accountable through litigation, and providing baseline data to track the health of our local waters.

We advocate for a process to rebalance water usage that takes into account all water users: People, farms, and fish. But right now, the balance is tipped in a way that puts our salmon’s lives — as well as people and orca whales that rely on salmon — in danger.

Protecting the water we love

RE Sources works in Whatcom and Skagit Counties to protect and restore our inland waters. This work includes science-based approaches that focus on education, advocacy and action to protect the wetlands, groundwater, rivers, and lakes of the central Salish Sea region. Our freshwater restoration work focuses on three main areas: Lake Whatcom, Salmon Recovery and Balancing our Water Supply.

Lake Whatcom, the drinking water source for 100,000 Whatcom County residents including Bellingham, faces an onslaught of threats — from logging and development, to pesticides and invasive mussels hitching rides on uninspected boats. Pollution of Lake Whatcom is on the rise, making drinking water treatment more costly, and the byproducts unhealthy for people to consume. We know that preventing pollution is cheaper than trying to clean it up. Water treatment for 100,000 people and lake restoration will only get more costly the longer we wait. Read more about our work to protect and restore Lake Whatcom.

People in our corner of the Pacific Northwest rely on salmon and other native fish species for food, recreation, jobs, cultural identity, and social tradition. These iconic fish support the Salish Sea food chain and the wildlife that make Washington a bastion of rich life and biodiversity.

But over the years, increased population, poorly planned development, pollution, and a warming climate have led to a rapid and concerning decline in salmon populations. In Washington, salmon have been listed as endangered in almost 75% of the state. Read more about our salmon recovery work.

Our water supply is finite — even in the Pacific Northwest where it can rain for days on end some parts of the year. When July rolls around, however, the rain almost completely stops for several months. We rely on mountain snow from the wetter months and groundwater stores to feed the rivers, and creeks that people, farms, and spawning salmon rely on.

Climate change means the extremes will get more extreme — less water in the already-dry summers, and excess water from winter storms that can flush away or salmon eggs. The heat and wildfire smoke of late summer is when lack of water is most palpable, but we cannot let ourselves forget about water resources for the rest of the year. And with Whatcom County’s population anticipated to grow by 75,000 in the next 20 years, we need to take a hard look at how, where, and when Whatcom County is using water. Status quo is no longer an option.

RE Sources advocates for thoughtfully and collaboratively managing our water resources as laid out in the Whatcom County’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan update. This includes quantifying water usage throughout the county to promote water conservation, connecting land use and development decisions with water availability, working with the shellfish and farming sectors to protect water quality, and more. Read more about our freshwater restoration work in Whatcom County.

Cover photo by Buff Black

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