Tag Archives: water

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.

Kitsap’s future involves sharing water resources

Sharing water resources over a wide region is an idea that goes hand-in-hand with the Growth Management Act’s strategy of concentrating population in urban areas while protecting rural areas.

Of course, the first level of action is water conservation. But the ability to take water from one aquifer with an adequate water supply while protecting an overtaxed aquifer somewhere else makes a lot of sense.

That’s the idea behind building new pipelines to connect numerous water systems across a good portion of Kitsap County, including Silverdale. I described the latest steps in this plan in a story published in Monday’s Kitsap Sun.

Rainfall

Thirty years ago — before the Growth Management Act was passed — I recall talking to folks at the Kitsap Public Utility District, who declared that they were not in the land-use business and had no intention of getting involved in land-use battles. It was the job of the Kitsap County commissioners to decide where to put the growth, they said. The PUD staff and commissioners believed their role was to provide water for the growing population, wherever it goes. Check out this Kitsap Sun story from Feb. 25, 2001.

The state’s Municipal Water Law of 2003 clarified that the KPUD could deliver water from one place to another throughout its service area — which is all of Kitsap County. That allows water to be brought to developed areas in North Kitsap, where annual rainfall is half of what we see in the forested areas of Southwest Kitsap, where the Seabeck aquifer is located. (See annual precipitation map on this page.)

Many environmentalists have objected to certain portions of the Municipal Water Law, especially sections that included developers as municipal water suppliers — a move they say opens the door for abuse by financial interests.

One of the big concerns in water management is that pumping too much from an aquifer — especially a shallow aquifer — could disrupt the subsurface flows and springs that maintain stream levels in the summer and early fall. Adequate streamflows are needed for many species, not the least of which are salmon.

With adequate monitoring, as needed for planning, experts can track groundwater levels and streamflows to avoid such problems. Pipelines allow aquifers to be “rested” when needed. And elected PUD commissioners can be held accountable for their decisions regarding the regional management of water.

Future water supplies and the right to use the water constitute one of the most complicated issues in environmental law. A 2003 paper by the Washington Department of Ecology, called “Mitigation Measures Used in Water Rights Permitting” outlines some of the methods being used to protect natural systems and competing water rights. Mitigation for use of the Seabeck aquifer, which is an important water supply in Kitsap County, is described briefly on pages 19 and 20.

Amusing Monday: 20 questions about H2O

This week, I looked for some interesting facts about water and created the following 20-question quiz. Find the answers below along with the various sources of the information.

Image: U.S. Department of Energy

1. If an adult’s body is 70 percent water, what percentage of water is an infant’s body?
A) 60 percent
B) 70 percent
C) 80 percent
D) 90 percent

2. How much of the Earth’s surface is covered by water?
A) 60-65 percent
B) 70-75 percent
C) 80-85 percent
D) 90-95 percent

3) An average person uses from 80 to 100 gallons of water a day. Excluding lawn-watering, the largest water use by an individual results from:
A) Flushing the toilet
B) Cooking and drinking
C) Taking a bath or shower
D) Water fights
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Are you ready to water the lawn with treated sewage?

It seems as if it has taken forever for someone in Kitsap County to put treated sewage to beneficial use, but a demonstration project on Retsil Road in South Kitsap is just around the corner. Check out my story in Saturday’s Kitsap Sun.

Darren Noon of Pape and Sons Construction Co. welds a section of "purple pipe" along Retsil Road in South Kitsap, the first reclaimed water project in Kitsap County.
Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan M. Reid

Local water experts were contemplating uses for highly treated wastewater even before “low-impact development” became a common phrase for infiltrating stormwater into the ground.

LID has caught on fairly quickly as a method of keeping polluted stormwater from reaching our streams and Puget Sound. The concept got an extra push from new stormwater regulations, which have greatly increased the cost of conventional pipe-and-pond methods of stormwater management.

The less-touted benefit of LID is groundwater recharge, which boosts our long-range water supply.

Kitsap County’s Watershed Management Plan (PDF 147 kb), developed in 2005, estimated that Kitsap County’s sewage treatment plants release 8 million gallons of treated water into Puget Sound each day. That’s enough to increase the base flow of 10 streams by 10 cubic feet per second, raise aquifer levels throughout the county or launch a new industry without touching our drinking water supplies.

“The most significant barriers to recycling wastewater are the cost of infrastructure and additional treatment, as well as public perception,” the report states. “Elected officials in WRIA 15 (the Kitsap Peninsula) have expressed support for public education about reclaimed water.”

The report mentions that highly treated effluent from the Central Kitsap Wastewater Treatment Plant near Brownsville could be used to supplement streamflows in nearby Steele Creek. But more recently Kitsap County and Silverdale Water District have begun working together on a plan to pipe the water into the heart of Silverdale, where it can be used to water ballfields and landscaping.

That’s also the initial plan put forth by West Sound Utility District, as I mentioned in Saturday’s story. Using wastewater for irrigation cuts down on peak demand, which is what drives water utilities to drill new wells. Needless to say, drilling deep wells comes at a tremendous expense — an expense that grows greater as Kitsap County approaches the limits of its groundwater supplies in some locations.

To many people, using reclaimed wastewater seems like a novel idea, especially in an region known for its rain. People remain squeamish about getting anywhere near sewage water, even if it is treated. But I don’t believe it will take long for people to accept the idea of using treated wastewater for irrigation, once they realize it is treated to basically the same level as drinking water.

On the other hand, drinking treated effluent becomes another issue, even though it has been done indirectly for years in many places. If you live in a town on the Mississippi River, your local utility may be drawing water out of the river for your consumption just downstream of where a sewage treatment plant is dumping its effluent.

There are several other places where reclaimed water is mixed with freshwater, such as in a reservoir, then drawn back out for drinking. Ironically, putting the wastewater into a reservoir makes it seem more palatable, even though it probably was cleaner before. Treating the water in the reservoir is essentially treating the wastewater again — although water is just water in the end.

For a description of reclaimed water systems in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, check out a fact sheet compiled by Queensland Water Commission, Australia: “Water recycling: Examples from other countries” (PDF 592 kb).

A community in Texas made news across the country last week, when reporter Angela Brown of the Associated Press wrote about a new $13-million water-reclamation plant to turn effluent into drinking water, the first to be built in that state. Really, it is nothing new, as Angela herself points out.

What I have not found anywhere so far is a direct use of reclaimed water. That’s what you would get by pumping the highly treated wastewater directly into a municipal water system’s piping network. From a health standpoint, there would be nothing wrong with that, provided the water could be shut off in the event of a problem at the treatment plant. No doubt this kind of direct use will be a little harder to get used to, even in areas where water is scarce.

Alix Spiegel of National Public Radio does a nice job analyzing the psychology behind the aversion to using treated wastewater and why people are more accepting of indirect use. Read or listen to “Why Cleaned Wastewater Stays Dirty In Our Minds .”

Amusing Monday: Film contest features water usage

With all the creative people we have in Western Washington, I’d like to see someone from this region enter a contest sponsored by Rain Bird Corporation called “The Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition.”

The last time the contest was held, in 2009, a video called “Small Changes” earned the Jury Award. In my opinion, the film was the best among all the finalists that year. But you can view them for yourself on Rain Bird’s website. Also, see also the winners for 2008 and 2007.

In the video player below, you can check out “Small Changes,” by filmmakers Jennifer and Christopher Gandin Le. The film makes the simple point that “Life without water is no life at all” and that we are not destined to live with shortages if we learn how to conserve water.

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World Water Day raises personal, technical issues

Water is the basic building block of life on Earth. Thankfully, it seems that water is in plentiful supply in most places in our country. Because of our vast water and sewer systems, it is easy to overlook the fact that nearly 1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water and that 2.6 billion people do not have access to a sanitary toilet. We may not know that thousands of people die every day, not from the consequences of war but because of dehydration and diseases caused by lack of sanitation.

From UN photo galleries

Learning about those issues is what the United Nations World Water Day is all about, as stated in a message from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

“Our growing population’s need for water for food, raw materials and energy is increasingly competing with nature’s own demands for water to sustain already imperiled ecosystems and the services on which we depend…

“The theme of this year’s World Water Day, ‘Clean Water for a Healthy World,’ emphasizes that both the quality and the quantity of water resources are at risk. More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. These deaths are an affront to our common humanity, and undermine the efforts of many countries to achieve their development potential.”

Check out the UN photo galleries.
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Kitsap study could quantify water supplies

Last week, I wrote about a meeting between water officials on the Kitsap Peninsula and hydrologists from the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS folks were floating the idea of studying the geology and available water supplies across the entire Kitsap Peninsula. (See story in Thursday’s Kitsap Sun.)

Surface waters of Kitsap.

I’ve covered water resources for years, and one of the big questions in the context of growth and development has always been: “Will the area have enough water to support growth.”

It’s a question I’ve asked local water managers since I arrived here in 1977. Their answer is generally something like this: “We should have enough water far into the future if we manage it carefully.” My latest story, published in the Kitsap Sun Oct. 3, described a relatively low-water year ending in October.

Most of Kitsap County’s water comes from wells. Consequently, managing water carefully means conserving what we’ve got, allowing our rains to soak into the ground and, in some contexts, being able to move water from areas of lesser supply to areas of greater supply. The map of surface waters at right can be found on the Kitsap County Web site.

Water is one of the big environmental issues of our time, and it will grow more important as long as the population continues to grow. Most people in the water business would like to know more about underground water supplies, so a study of the peninsula’s water resources would be valuable. Experts also realize that studies of this kind are only as good as the data that go in. That involves using measurements from hundreds of wells and well logs (soil layers) across the peninsula. You may want to check out similar studies conducted by USGS.

This topic also appears to be interesting to Kitsap Sun readers, because the story I wrote last week was rated the most popular on the Web site for two days running.

As with many environmental stories, the first comments to be posted seemed skeptical of the whole idea that caused me to write the story:

Crownvic (the first comment): “This is another one of these greeny try-to-scare-the-hell-out-of-you articles. First of all, almost all water wells pump from an aquifer 100 feet plus deep and have absolutely no effect on surface waters due to the impervious layers top and bottom…”
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Amusing Monday: Riding the Waves

I have no intention of making Watching Our Water Ways an All-Serious, All-the-Time blog, so I’m always on the lookout for some humorous stories and videos on the subject of water.

I’m going to try to make lighter topics a weekly feature of this blog, which I’ll call Amusing Mondays. Please contribute any amusing water-related topics that you come across. They may be stories, cartoons, photographs, videos, just about anything. (If copyright is an issue, we’ll have to link to someone else rather than running the raw text or images.)

For today’s entry, I came across this cool human-powered hydrofoil water scooter. You need to watch two short videos, the first from the manufacturer.

You can actually buy this thing from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Now watch MythBusters’ Adam Savage (Discovery Channel) demonstrate his rare and unique skill with the device.