Tag Archives: water resources

Congress authorizes five restoration projects throughout Puget Sound

Five major Puget Sound projects have been given the provisional go-ahead by Congress in a massive public works bill signed yesterday by President Obama.

It seems like the needed federal authorization for a $20-million restoration effort in the Skokomish River watershed has been a long time coming. This project follows an extensive, many-years study of the watershed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which winnowed down a long list of possible projects to five. See Water Ways, April 28, 2016, for details.

In contrast, while the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNRP) also involved an extensive and lengthy study, the final selection and submission to Congress of three nearshore projects came rather quickly. In fact, the Puget Sound package was a last-minute addition to the Water Resources Development Act, thanks to the efforts of U.S. Reps. Rick Larson, D-Lake Stevens, and Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, along with Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

The three PSNRP projects moving forward are:

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Kitsap groundwater model points to promising future

Overall, the Kitsap Peninsula is expected to have enough water for people and fish for many years into the future, as long as the water is managed well, according to a groundwater model developed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The model offers reassuring findings for residents of the Kitsap Peninsula. It is also encouraging to see local water, sewer and public works officials working together to plan for infiltrating stormwater along with recycling wastewater for irrigation. Those efforts will not only protect the peninsula’s water resources but will save money for water customers.

Drilling for water on the Kitsap Peninsula Kitsap Sun file photo
Drilling for water on the Kitsap Peninsula
Kitsap Sun file photo

Lonna Frans of the U.S. Geological Survey met this week with members of WaterPAK — the Water Purveyors of Association of Kitsap — to discuss the conclusions of a five-year, $1.4 million study of water resources across the Kitsap Peninsula. Lonna said a final written report should be available in about a month. (See website Kitsap GW model.)

The most impressive part of the groundwater model is the mapping of geology across the entire peninsula, based on more than 2,100 well-driller logs that describe the type of soil at various depths. Putting that information together provides a three-dimensional picture of the underground structure, including sand and gravel deposits, which contain water, along with layers of clay and compressed soils, which slow down the water movement.

By monitoring water levels in 66 wells over time and accounting for rainfall and groundwater withdrawals, the computer model provides a dynamic picture of what happens under various conditions. The model can be used to predict what will happen to Kitsap’s aquifers under various rainfall scenarios, including long periods of drought.

Map

Key

The model also can predict what will happen to streamflows under various rainfall scenarios. The Kitsap Peninsula has no mountain snowpack to supply the streams with water during dry summer months, so the water must come from slow-moving underground supplies.

Now that the model is complete, it can be run for almost any pattern of rainfall or drought that one wishes to dream up. For example, running the model with average rainfall and no pumping at all (close to a predevelopment condition) would bring the average groundwater level up about 25 feet — although groundwater levels in some places would be raised more than in other places.

Streamsflows under the no-pumping scenario would be an average of about 2 percent higher — although this would be difficult to measure with current instruments. Nobody would really notice the difference.

If pumping across the peninsula were increased by 15 percent, there would not be much difference in aquifers near the surface and only a two- or three-foot drop in aquifers around sea level. Streamflows would go down by a fraction of a percent but not enough to notice.

Decreasing groundwater recharge by 15 percent, such as paving over the landscape with new roads, houses and parking lots, would have a greater effect on streamflows.

Again, not all areas on the peninsula will see the same effects. The model can be used to zero in on specific streams and their watersheds — although the smaller the area of study, the less accurate the prediction is likely to be.

Bob Hunter, manager of Kitsap Public Utility District, said the model can be used to predict the effects that new wells would have on streamflows as the population grows. The model could advise managers whether it would be advisable to pump certain wells at certain times of the year and hold back at other times.

Kathleen Cahall, water resources manager for the city of Bremerton, said the model can also be used to make sure aquifer-recharge areas are protected and that industrial facilities that store large quantities of chemicals are not located where a spill could contaminate a major underground water supply.

Morgan Johnson, general manager of Silverdale Water District, said he would like to use the model to predict what will happen when highly treated effluent from the Central Kitsap Wastewater Treatment Plant is used to irrigate ball fields and other areas in Central Kitsap. Efforts between the water districts and Kitsap County might lead to greater infiltration of water and greater groundwater supplies to be pumped from existing wells throughout Central Kitsap.

The model was built on background information, which can be found in the report “Hydrogeologic Framework, Groundwater Movement, and Water Budget of the Kitsap Peninsula” (PDF 49.8 mb).

The USGS provided half the costs for the study. The other half was shared among Kitsap PUD; Silverdale Water District; West Sound Utility District; North Perry Water District; Manchester Water District; the cities of Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Gig Harbor; Washington Water, a private utility; and the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes.

In September of 2014, I wrote about water resources for the series we called “Taking the Pulse of Puget Sound.” The story was called “Making sure there is enough water to go around.”

Bremerton tops other cities in water competition

UPDATE, Friday, 4-3-2013, 12:55 p.m.
It appears that Bremerton was the only Washington city to make it into the top 10 in any of the population categories, according to the final list. (PDF 127 kb).
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Bremerton residents pushed their city into the top spot among hundreds of cities competing in the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.

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Residents from cities across the country were asked to “take the pledge” and do things to save water around their house. Bremerton took first place among cities with populations from 30,000 to 100,000.

I don’t believe any other city in Washington state made it into the top 10 for their populations, although Seattle came close. We may know more later today, when the winners are announced on the website My Water Pledge.

“Water is Bremerton’s remarkable resource,” said Mayor Patty Lent in a news release (PDF 53 kb). “I appreciate the support of our residents during this contest and encourage everyone to learn more about their water and energy use at home. This contest was a fun opportunity to learn about water-wise habits and create a more sustainable environment.”

By being from one of the five winning cities, Bremerton residents will be eligible for hundreds of prizes to be awarded in the competition, sponsored by the nonprofit Wyland Foundation. Prizes include a Toyota Prius, custom-designed lawn sprinkler systems, low-flow shower heads and Lowe’s gift cards. Anyone who submitted a pledge will be eligible for a separate drawing for a $1,000 shopping spree at Lowe’s.

“The Mayor’s Challenge highlights the impact of each person’s environmental efforts,” said Water Resources Manager Kathleen Cahall in the news release. “The city’s prize for participating in this contest is increased awareness about the importance of our water resources.”

Last year, the first year of competition, Bremerton finished in the top spot among medium-sized cities in Washington and third among cities in the West.

Bremerton leads in national water challenge

In the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, Bremerton is leading all U.S. cities with populations between 30,000 and 100,000.

water

The water challenge, sponsored by the Wyland Foundation, asks people to take a pledge to work for water conservation. Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent has embraced the national competition by talking about it often when she meets with community groups.

To take the pledge and boost your own city’s ranking in the competition, go to www.mywaterpledge.com and fill out a brief form.

Last year, Bremerton came in first among medium-sized cities in Washington state and third among those in the West.

“Water is Bremerton’s remarkable resource,” the mayor said in a news release. “I encourage all Bremerton residents to pledge to learn more about their water and energy use at home. This challenge, which runs through April, is an exciting opportunity to learn about water wise habits as we engage in a friendly competition with other cities across the nation to create a more sustainable environment.”

Kathleen Cahall, Bremerton’s water resources manager, noted that this year’s competition pits all like-sized cities in the country against each other. Last year, the first competition was regional. Now, there are five nationwide population categories instead of three for each region.

Bremerton has not done as much personal outreach on the project as last year, Kathleen told me, but the city has placed messages on city utility bills and in electronic news letters; on BKAT, the community access television station; and with flyers for students to take home at schools within Bremerton’s water service area.

“It really takes no effort for us to be involved,” Kathleen said, “and it is easy for our residents to learn about water-wise habits and pollution-prevention.”

A federal water-quality permit requires the city to do public education, and people can learn from the water challenge, she said.

As an added incentive, the contest awards prizes to random people who take the pledge.

The only other Washington cities currently in the top 10 are Seattle, which is eighth among cities with more than 600,000 people, and Sequim, which is tenth among cities with populations from 5,000 to 30,000.

Port Orchard is 14th among the 5,000-30,000 cities. Poulsbo is 119th and Bainbridge Island is 291st in that same population category.

Cities in Washington that ranked within the top 100 in their own population categories include Lacey, 15th; Bellevue, 19th; Tacoma, 42nd; Spokane, 48th; North Bend, 50th; Vancouver, 53rd; and Bellingham, 62nd.

Take the ‘water pledge’ to boost your ‘city’

UPDATE, May 4

The “Mayor’s Challenge” is over, and Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent says she is pleased that Bremerton placed first in Washington state and third out of more than 100 medium-sized cities in the West.

Read the news release issued by the mayor.
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Ecology budget cuts reduce water resources program

I tackled Washington Department of Ecology’s budget in a story published today in the Kitsap Sun.

My original plan was to lead the story with the water resources program and its 25 percent cutback in staffers who process water-rights applications. The cutbacks will put the state further behind in managing our limited water resources.

Because Ecology has taken a precautionary approach, the result will be less water available to serve growing communities and businesses. That becomes especially frustrating for developers and water utilities, but a lack of overall management is not so good for the environment either.

And we still kind of ignore that fact that people are allowed to drill wells for their single-family homes without much regard for the overall amount of water available. That issue will come home to roost one of these days, because these are the wells most likely to affect streams and wetlands. Conflicting demands will inevitably rise to the surface one day.

Anyway, my original plan was to lead this story talking about water resources, but I chose to focus first on litter. Litter is easier for people to understand, and I thought more people could get into the story from that angle. I know my blood boils when I think of all the trash along the highways. I also discovered some interesting details for my story.

Statewide, Ecology’s Youth Corps will be cut by half. That means less litter will be picked up. As some folks pointed out in comments on the story, we still have work crews from the jails, but that effort also takes money for supervision, transportation and disposal — and not all inmates are eligible to work. The state will still support the inmate crews, though I need to check whether the county will continue the program at the same level. (I’ll try to report that here and in a comment on the story.)

Overall, Ecology will be able to make it through the downtown in the economy without major problems. As with many organizations, the biggest problem will be losing experienced, knowledgeable employees and hiring back rookies when money becomes available.

National Water Program prepares for climate change

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a report about what climate change could do to the nation’s water resources and how people should respond.

The report, from EPA’s National Water Program, is called Water Impacts of Climate Change (PDF 584 kb).

The report relies on scientific predictions, which suggest that climate change will bring warmer air and water, a shift in the location of rain and snow, increased storm intensity in some areas, a rise in sea level, and changes in the ocean ecosystem.

Some of the predicted effects:

  • Oxygen: Warmer water will hold less oxygen, resulting in increased stress on aquatic organisms and an increase in harmful algal blooms,
  • Pollution: Heavier precipitation will increase surface water flows, affecting aquatic health and releasing more nutrients, pathogens and toxic chemicals into water bodies.
  • Water supplies: In some areas of the country, droughts will decrease water supplies for drinking, for industrial uses and for agriculture. In other areas, sea level rise will lead to salt water intrusion with similar effects on water supplies.
  • Invasive species: As waters become warmer, aquatic life in many areas will be displaced by plants and animals better adapted to warmer waters. Because the changes will occur at an uneven pace, harmful species could become established.
  • Combined effects: Coastal areas could see a combination of these various effects — including sea level rise, increased storm intensity and floods, reduction in drinking water supplies and greater ocean acidity.

As a result of these effects, the National Water Program is calling for five goals to respond to ongoing climate change:

  • Goal 1, mitigation: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through existing programs; promote carbon sequestration with regard to energy production and industrial processes; and support improved operation of water systems.
  • Goal 2, adaptation: Be ready with new strategies to adjust to changes in watersheds, wetlands other natural systems. Develop tools and science to guide and support planning and management.
  • Goal 3, research: Strengthen the link between EPA water programs and climate change researchers to allow water managers to anticipate changes.
  • Goal 4, education: Educate federal, state and local water program managers to better anticipate and respond to climate change.
  • Goal 5, management: The National Water Program should maintain its Climate Change Workgroup and reach out to other federal agencies dealing with climate change.

Tasks to be completed to help all regions of the U.S. adjust to the water-related impacts of climate change:

  • Data: Agency scientists need to develop information to understand how the environment is changing.
  • Extremes: Water managers need to plan and be prepared for extremes, including heavy storms, excess water and water shortages.
  • Resilience: A “watershed approach” based on science should increase the long-term sustainability of ecosystems.
  • Analysis: Water managers need to acquire a range of analytical tools to help them understand and respond to climate change.
  • Partnerships: Sharing information across geographic areas and among levels of government should help water managers develop the best strategies in response to climate change.