We should have seen it coming last summer when westside lawmakers refused to consider bills to address well-drilling issues created by the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision.
Now, that the real reason behind their balking has been unveiled, residents east of the Cascades will have to step up their opposition to urbanites’ plans to control our water.
Under a plan unveiled by Democrats earlier this week, a new series of well-related regulations would be the answer to Hirst.
Under the plan from urban — not rural — lawmakers, Eastern Washington families living outside city limits could face hefty new fees just to be able to access the water they have a right to.
Not only would urban lawmakers charge a $1,500 well fee, they would cap water withdrawals at 350 gallons per day. Exempt wells heretofore have been allowed to withdraw up to 5,000 gallons.
Mark my words — next, they’ll be pushing for every persexempt well to be metered. Oh, wait, some bureaucrats in Yakima County are already pushing for meters on the well water you and I drink, giving them control.
The reason, they say, is to protect the ground water level, and ultimately fish. Interesting dichotomy here — the urbanites pushing for dam removal also want to limit rural water use to preserve ground water levels.
Let’s examine that issue.
Dams here in Eastern Washington have helped raised ground water levels since they were built. The water in reservoirs behind the dams seeps into our aquifers. Then, those of us who live in rural areas tap aquifers for water to drink, shower, brush our teeth, etc.
Take away the dams, you take away a part of the aquifer recharge. With a lower recharge rate, there’s less water for farm families’ wells.
You see where this is headed.
Less water and capped well withdrawals will drive the price of water higher, giving government more control over our lives and more money to expand bureaucratic power over rural families. So this proposal really isn’t about fixing the Hirst decision — which requires proof exempt families wells won’t impact senior water rights holders — it’s about control.
But before we get that far, there are other factors that urbanites are intentionally overlooking in this equation. Yakima County, too, is apparently turning a blind eye.
First, rural families drawing water from wells don’t generally dump effluent into municipal wastewater systems. Instead, most use septic systems.
Those systems leach the water back into the ground. Most contaminants are filtered out by septic tanks, and others by the ground itself. That water ultimately makes its way back into the aquifer as a recharge source.
Then there’s the fact many ruralites live on dirt and gravel roads. There’s virtually no water run-off due to impervious surfaces. Instead, rain water soaks into the ground just about everywhere, helping to recharge aquifers.
Ruralites also pump water out of the ground for livestock, crops, gardens and sprinklers. Again, that water is “recycled” by the ground and eventually helps rechard our aquifers.
So, there’s virtually no valid argument supporting the need for well fees, caps and monitoring by urbanites who think they know better than ruralites.
What about the issue of expenses. Farm families pay for their own wells, pumps, pipes and related costs. Ruralites don’t call the city to fix water problems. They fix it themselves or pay someone to do it. So, there’s no need for a bureaucrat living in Olympia, Seattle, Tacoma or even the city of Yakima to get involved in well use by a farm family.
Unlike city slickers, ruralites know the value of their water, not in monetary terms, but in quality of life terms. Urbanites, however, view our wells through dollar-sign covered glasses.
Hopefully, our Eastern Washington lawmakers are strong enough to fend off the new assault on the rural way of life east of the Cascades.
The proposal on the table is a non-starter for Eastern Washington residents. And it should be for lawmakers from rural areas. As the Legislative session starts up, our lawmakers need to hold their ground on opposing the idea.
We didn’t elect them to “carry the water” for urbanites.
— Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Daily Sun. Email him at email@example.com.