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Comments

Andy

This is BS !!

Those commies aint gonna tell me what to do with my H2O ! Just let 'em try to elbow me on this one - I'll open up a can of you know what on anyone who disagrees with me on this.

We are God-fearing people who love water, and like watching our sprinklers spray that precious juice all over our thirsty lawns.

What about the kiddies ? Did you even have the decency to consider them ? You KNOW they love skipping and running through those sprinklers and slip-n-slides after they get done eating their dinner. Even days, odd days - they won’t be able to comprehend all of this mumbo jumbo. Whose gonna tell them little kiddies they can't do it no more ? Who ???

Heyduke

Way to go Mayor Verner! It’s this type of vision that makes me proud that Spokane elected you. Too bad some think we need an actual shortage to implement conservation measures. I also think it’s a great idea to regulate AND educate; there is already a lot of education materials and programs from Spokane Conservation District, Spokane County, Department of Ecology, and I am sure there are others. If people have not already taken advantage of these, then maybe a little nudge will help.

Jon Snyder

We can regulate AND educate. I think the mayor's idea is great! It's good for the river, and good for the future. I could not believe Councilwoman McLaughlin's comment. What world is she living in? Just because the aquifer (probably) won't run dry in her lifetime doesn't mean we shouldn't protect with some very basic common sense conservation.

Kitty Klitzke

I support Mayor Verner's efforts to conserve water. This is exactly the kind of leadership Spokane needs. We have been using education to address water conservation for over 20 years at great expense resulting in double Seattle's usage and a per capita use rate that hasn't changed.

One point that has not been addressed here is that although we don't perceive a water shortage, kayakers and wildlife on the river do. The aquifer also recharges our river flows, and the recent aquifer study shows that if we pump aquifer water below certain levels, we get less flow--which points to the undeniable fact that the aquifer is a finite resource in a growing community, and an issue we should address now!

I applaud Mayor Verner, Ms. McLaughlin could clearly use some water conservation education herself and hopefully she will get it from her constituents!

Contrarian

Heyduke says, "Too bad some think we need an actual shortage to implement conservation measures."

I guess I'm missing something. If there is no actual shortage nor any prospect of one, and since any water not used cannot be stored for future use anyway, then what *is* the rationale for rationing? (Don't say "conservation measures," because the unused water is not conserved; it simply makes its way to the sea unused by us, as does the water we use).

Or perhaps we are asking several hundred thousand people to sacrifice their convenience and preferences so that a few kayakers may enjoy a marginal improvement in their hobby?

"Green" ideology has acquired all the earmarks of a religion --- dogmatism, irrationality, intolerance, and a rationale for despotism.

Contrarian

Jon, the acquifer is not gonna "run out" in anyone's lifetime, now or in the foreseeable future. Or if it does, it will be due to geological changes; it will have nothing to do with how much water we draw from it today.

Queen of Spokane

I am proud of the Mayor and sad some of our council and residents are so uneducated. We need to use our water more efficently, this is not an unlimited resource and water use efficency is the key to preserving this resource for future generations. I would like to know where Contarian got the information they are spewing. Water rights are the same as gold.

Contrarian

Being one of the educated ones, Queen, perhaps you can explain how using less water today "preserves it for future generations." We philistines would love to be enlightened.

Steve

The mayor is a flaming idiot.

Noon to 6pm is the WORST time to water a lawn if you're trying to conserve water. It's typically hotter and drier, meaning that there is more water loss to evaporation than at other times of the day.

Perhaps the mayor's office should search for "best time to water lawn" on Google and see what the general consensus is on the matter.

Silent Bahb

For the record, the Mayor wants to PROHIBIT watering between noon and six.

Bart Mihailovich

"There is sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed." - Gandhi

Kate

Contrarian, the water we use doesn't make it to the sea in the same condition it was when we took it from the aquifer. Fertilizer, hormones, antibiotics - that stuff doesn't just disappear during the water cycle. The aquifer isn't simply water, it's the highest quality water we have. Watering your lawn with it is like feeding your cats caviar.

Also, I'd like to know what is so bad about an ethic that dictates we shouldn't take something unless we need it. If we restrict water use, who is hurt? How does getting people to put their sprinklers on a timer so they shut down at noon equal despotism?

Contrarian

If the fertilizers et al can be demonstrated to have a detrimental effect on downstream users (as in the case of phosphate detergents), Kate, then it would seem the rational solution would be to remove them prior to discharge, or if that is unfeasible, control their use. But there would have to be a showing of measurable losses to someone; restrictions imposed solely in pursuit of a quasi-religious dogma which holds that anything humans introduce into the discharge stream is "unnatural" and a "pollutant" could not be justified. I suspect such a showing would be difficult to make, since Spokane meets all applicable discharge limits.

There is nothing wrong with a "waste not, want not" ethic (don't take what you don't need). Things go wrong when some people, such as politicians, in pursuit of their adopted ideology, presume to tell other people what their needs are, and then proceed to impose their definitions by force.

Most people who take pride in their lawns and gardens know that watering during the hottest part of the day is inefficient. For some, though, that may be the most convenient time to do it. They are paying the water bill. As long as there is no water shortage, and no other harm is done to anyone else, it is no one else's business.

There is nothing wrong with feeding your cat caviar if you have enough caviar for everyone who wants some, including the cats.

Barb

This topic is clearly hitting several nerves, including a bunch of mine.

I'm not a water economist, but I did see an absolutely fantastic presentation on the aquifer study findings that laid out the issues and the (real) constraints. This was several months ago and I know I don't have all the details. See http://www.spokaneaquifer.org/report.htm for those.

What I took away was that projected population growth is going to outstrip the aquifer/river recharge capacity. That is, we WILL run out of the ability to take water at current usage levels, as multiplied by the growth factors in Kootenai and Spokane Counties (remember the aquifer crosses state lines--it's not just our growth on this side of the line that draws down the water table).

It's a tragedy of the commons, sort of like wastewater treatment capacity--flush all you want today, no problem, but add a few more flushers and the plant can't handle it, whereas if we all learned to flush (or irrigate our savanna-like greensward) less, there could be enough for all.

We already have to build more wastewater treatment capacity or the county and cities simply will not be permitted to hand out more building permits, period. If everyone takes all the water we want today, the same thing will happen to water rights. It takes a long time to change habits, but a strong social campaign with reinforcement from policy makers (think about drunk driving and smoking as models) can change the extent to which one person makes individual choices that affect the options for others now and in the future.

Do we want to reach the same kind of point--a semi-crisis--in water usage because we couldn't see past the end of our hoses to plan ahead? Oh, wait, we're doing that on fossil fuel usage too, so....

What a short-sighted species we can be, and yet we have the creativity to rise above, if we have the will. We managed to pass clean air legislation that limited your "right" to spew pollutants into a local geographic zone whose airshed can't handle it--that would be downtown Spokane, the city in a bowl, among other former non-attainment areas--so that the "unlimited" air quality could be preserved. Somehow polluting industries and car manufacturers learned over time to change their habits. Now think if we'd had reasonable standards in place before it got so bad that it took drastic and economically disruptive measures to address the problem.

Far from seeing this as an issue of dogma, faith, or anything else deemed beyond the scope of reason's ability to address it, I see this as something requiring far more of the pre-frontal cortex higher reasoning abilities, and less of the hind brain's "I see! I want! I grab!" reflexes.

There's an Oliver Wendell Holmes line, often quoted by Robert Heinlein in his libertarian science fiction: "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." Define "nose" as sole-source aquifer plus beautiful river running through the heart of Spokane that depends on that aquifer, and that's what we're looking at.

--barb

Silent Bahb

Well said, Barb.

Contrarian

Barb ---

"What I took away was that projected population growth is going to outstrip the aquifer/river recharge capacity. That is, we WILL run out of the ability to take water at current usage levels . . ."

According to the USGS study completed last year, all pumpage from the aquifer, by all users in ID and WA, amounted to 22% of its mean annual flow.

http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2007/5041/section4.html

Unless you are expecting a 5-fold population increase sometime soon, the aquifer will be adequate for decades to come.

It is true, of course, that if demand increases indefinitely, at some point the aquifer will not meet that demand. But regardless of when that occurs, water not used today will not be available to those future users. *The water we use today makes no difference the amount available to future users*.

I certainly agree with your Holmes quote. Now you just have to specify whose nose is threatened when I water my lawn.

METROSPOKANE

>I certainly agree with your Holmes quote. Now you just have to specify whose nose is threatened when I water my lawn.

Pretty much anyone downstream from you. That's their problem, tho'. Hopefully Kootenai County users are considering us 'downstreamers', but it's doubtful.

Contrarian

You mean I'm leaving some downstreamers short of water, Metro? Evidence?

SF Columbia

By what authority does the City have to regulate the timing/amount of my watering when there is no need for conservation? The air pollution analogy is a red herring because there was demonstrated need to reduce emissions. There has been no demonstrated need to conserve water. The water will not be stored for future use. There is no shortage of water downstream. There is no showing that the water discharge is out of compliance with applicable health and safety regulations. Furthermore, the single largest user of water is the City and it will be exempting itself from these regulations.

Just because an idea may sound good to some people and make them feel better about themselves because they "care" and are doing the "right" thing does not mean those people have the power and/or authority (moral or legal) to micromanage the daily lives of their fellow citizens.

I may feel certain people are wasting bandwith by their inane and vacuous postings on the internet, and I've heard there's an impending shortage of bandwith at some point in the future...but unfortunately I don't have access to the giant modem controlling the internet...nor should I.

This is a backdoor attempt to limit growth in the Spokane area. If the City, via edict, forces conservation on its citizens there will most definitely be less water used. As a result two things will happen: 1) the City will take in less revenue from water usage fees and will have to raise fees and taxes in other areas to cover the self-created revenue shortfall; and 2) the City will get sued by "environmental" groups and "activists" to give up its unused water rights.

Down the road there will be even more litigation to stop development and growth because there will be inadequate water to service that growth, which will of course be due to the City being forced to give up its unused water rights (that was intentionally manufactured by forced conservation). Meanwhile no water will actually have been saved from or for anything because it will have run to the Pacific Ocean.

And if we're really worried about discharge issues, then the water usage isn't the problem, because as we've heard, the Spokane Acquifer is pristine water. So the water isn't the problem (if in fact there were such a problem, which no problem has been demonstrated). The problem (again, if there was such a problem) would be with the "other" things put on grass that are not filtered out and are discharged back into to the drainage system. If a demonstratable health problem can be shown from the discharge then the City would have an argument for further regulating/banning those hazardous substances from being used within City limits.

If we're going to regulate lawn watering then shouldn't we also regulate dishwashing, bath/shower time and toilet usage? I propose the following additional regulations: 1) no dishwashers; 2) no sinks that hold more than 1 gallon of water; 3) ban kiddie pools and slip n slides (there is no "need" for such frivolous items says Burgermeister Meisterburger Verner); 4) even numbered houses can go #1 during the houses of 12-3 on odd numbered days and odd numbered houses can go #2 on even numbered days between the hours of 7:22 and 9:16 (or alternatively toilets shall be outlawed and we can go back to digging holes in the ground); 5) all City parks and golf courses shall become natural preserves and organic community gardens; 5) a new government and neighborhood commission needs to be established (and managed by the Southgate Neighborhood Council) to educate neighbors on the need for reporting code violations to the City and to recruit code enforcers to ensure that no baths are taken and showers are limited to no more than 93 seconds); and 6) all City pools shall be drained and turned into skate parks and urban artistry canvasses.

Silent Bahb

Wow. That's the first South Park reference I've caught on MS.

Bart Mihailovich

First of all, I'd like to applaud MetroSpokane for bringing awareness to this issue. His reporting of the initial story from the P-I started this whole thing off and I don't doubt for a second that he opened up the eyes of City Hall.
It's evident from the 40+ comments on this issue that it hits nerves. I take great joy in reading that overall, the sentiment is that conservation is a good thing and that anything we can do to preserve the aquifer is important. For anyone who reads these comments, please don't let the nearsighted opinions of some discourage you, they are only a small percentage. Remember, nearly 30% of American's still approve of our president - that helps put this into perspective.

Rachel Schell

I think there should be education on water conservation. Our aquifer won't last forever.

ps - thanks for the credit on that photo. :)

Hannk

One need only look elsewhere in the country where states are fighting legal battles over scarce water resources. Atlanta is an excellent example of what can happen when building permits are always approved and water planning is not a consideration. I think Mayor Verner is on the right track.

Contrarian

You nailed it, SF.

Two arguments can be discerned in the comments above for Herr Honor's rationing scheme:

1. We need to "conserve water for future generations." That one is obviously nonsense, since no water unused by us today will be "conserved." It will simply run to the sea, unused by us or anyone in the future (that, BTW, is the correct definition of "waste").

2. "The more water we use, the greater the 'pollution' burden on downstream users."

Two problems there: any substances we introduce into the discharge stream are not "pollutants" unless they have some demonstrable detrimental effect, which they don't. There has been no showing of any harm whatsoever to any downstream users.

Moreover, the Mayor's proposed restrictions on lawn watering don't even address this argument. She justifies forbidding lawn watering during the heat of the day because much of the water will be lost to evaporation. But water lost to evaporation does not enter the discharge stream. It carries no "pollutants" and does not impact the treatment system. This argument is clearly not even germane to the restrictions the Mayor proposes.

Since neither of the above arguments carry any water (pun intended), we might suspect they are pseudo-arguments meant to muddy the water (pun intended) ---that they are pretexts for a different agenda.

I suggested previously that "green" ideology has assumed most of the unpleasant trappings of doctrinaire religion (irrationality, dogmatism, etc.). Another of those is commonly a disdain for "materialism" and admiration for asceticism. Yet another is a drive to spread the Gospel and convert the heathens.

I suspect the Mayor views her role as that of a priestess at the van of a noble crusade to impose her vision of godliness and piety upon the heathen masses. Let's hope there are enough heretics on the Council to thwart her intentions.

Contrarian

People do indeed fight battles over scarce resources, Hannk. That is understandable. What is not understandable is launching a battle over a resource that is not scarce and in no danger of becoming so.

SF Columbia

First of all...I'm highly offended Bahb...that you felt the need to acknowledge the South Park reference but completely ignored the "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" reference...it's unacceptable bigotry toward a fine 1960's cartoon!

Contrarian: You'd been carrying the water (pun intended) on the issue for too long so I felt the need to wade in (again!).

It's classic busybodiness...artificially create a "crisis" where none exists in order to justify a governmental response to a non-existent crisis. The solution is always that private citizens give up rights and liberties and comfort...never the government gives up something. Interestingly enough...I wonder how many proponents of the Mayor's water plan think that it's evil for the government to monitor who's checking out what books from a government owned and run library...and then have no issue with filing an income tax return with IRS. But then again...consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

sfcolumbia@hotmail.com

METROSPOKANE

A couple of honest questions:

What 'right' is being lost here? As the purveyor of common water services don't they have the ability to regulate usage?

As you point out C, the USGS study determined we're extracting only around 1/4 of the capacity of the aquifer. In your opinion, at what level of extraction SHOULD we be concerned?

METROSPOKANE

...and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is perhaps the finest stop action film ever. Hands down.

Contrarian

Metro --

"In your opinion, at what level of extraction SHOULD we be concerned?"

Answering questions of that kind is where city planners can serve a useful function (DELETED-OFF TOPIC). At some level of demand, pumpage from the aquifer will become unreliable or economically unfeasible. Competent planners should be able to estimate that level and project the time when it will be reached. Before that point is reached they should have identified additional sources and begin designing and budgeting for them. If they've done their jobs, no rationing would be necessary at any point. (They should be doing the same thing for roads, schools, etc. I.e., they should be trying to read and follow the market, not presuming to "lead" or control it).

But that point is unlikely to be reached for many decades. There is certainly no justification for any water rationing at the present.

There is no shortage of freshwater anywhere in the PNW, except perhaps SE Oregon. The supply is adequate for many times our population, just as comparable supplies in the Northeast support many times our population. There will never be a need for rationing here, unless politicians enamoured of "green" minimalism decline to develop the necessary infrastructure.

Silent Bahb

I certainly didn't mean to impugn anyone's choice of Christmas entertainment.

And I did completely miss the reference. :o)

Kate

Contrarian, the position that competent, independent planners could just go ahead and make a prognosis of that kind without getting involved in politics fascinates me.

Why, in a democratic society, should "experts" be allowed to set agendas and priorities for the government? Those are political decisions that belong in the realm of politics.

There are never enough facts for us to conclusively predict the future. So along the way, we make decisions as to what we find plausible, based upon our opinions.

And those opinions are bound up inextricably with politics. The use of space is political, the use of resources is political, planning is political.

Any planner who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

Contrarian

The planners don't set any agendas, Kate. They simply deliver the information. It is then up to the politicians to act responsibly on that information.

I hope you're not suggesting that public policy ought to be based on uninformed opinions, i.e., prejudices. Given the scope of decision-making you seem willing to surrender to politicians, that would be frightening.

Silent Bahb

Sadly, C., the thing you profess to fear is more than often the truth. Politics plays a heavy role in decision making, for better or for worse. Sadly, even if these "competent" planners were to identify the point at which draw from the aquifer was no longer feasible without their process and conclusions being modified by political pressure, their conclusions would then have to run the gamut of political wrangling and emotional outpouring that any such issue garners.

We’re a few people discussing theory based upon a blog entry and we’ve stretched this to over 60 comments (including the PI article discussion). Can you imagine what would happen were this discussion held in a public forum, such as a City Council meeting, instead? Especially if the issue at hand was whether to act on the conclusions of the planners?

And for Kate, I’m curious . . . are you supporting the politicization of such information as a benefit? I’m not arguing with you, I’m just curious. I haven’t met many people (who aren’t politicians themselves) who hold that opinion.

Kate

Well Silent Bahb, Contrarian said it - politicians need to base their decisions on informed opinions. Part of the information they (and in certain situations the public) need to have is that expert opinions *are* opinions. They are based on the attitudes and values espoused by the expert's discipline, as well as by the individual expert himself. I don't support the politicization of expert knowledge per se, but I do think it's a fact. And the more openly we deal with that fact, the more informed our own opinions can be.

I'm not saying expert opinions are unimportant for a political decision process. I did spend 4 years in college learning about the city, and that definitely gives me some special knowledge. So hey, yes, go ahead and pick my brain if you would like to know about urban planning issues.

Just please don't act like politicians and the press often do when they find themselves *one* expert, ask his opinion, and then run around going, "HEY WE HAVE AN EXPERT OPINION!" like it's the gospel truth.

That would be silly and technocratic.

Silent Bahb

Oh, don’t misunderstand me, Kate. I’m not supporting the politicization of information as a good thing. I was stating exactly what you did - that it occurs quite often whenever any ruling body attempts to make a decision, even on what is arguable a scientific or technical issue. My primary point to C. was that his fear is well founded, making his dream of a perfect planner solving the water issue next to impossible.

(By the way, where did I imply that I support exalting one expert’s opinion over any others? I missed that.)

More interesting to me, and more worrisome, is the fact that the influence of politics often occurs during the gathering and interpretation of data, not afterward when the politicians must weigh the facts given and apply them to their decision. I would love to say that whenever an issue like this comes up the data is made available to the decision makers who then consider the given data along with the current political environment, etc., which ultimately leads them to make their decision. However, as is so often the case, the decision makers have a nasty habit of controlling the collection of data so that it is invariably steered towards their already preconceived notion of what should be done.

This kind of thing occurs at all levels of government, not just between “dub-ya” and the EPA.

Leio

I'm generally in support of conservation and forward thinking, but this decision is the exact opposite. There are no demonstrable effects that our current level of water usage is harmful, nor do we even have a clue at what level that would occur. This decision will at best be an annoyance to citizens and at worst significantly drain the cities coffers.

I would like to see an analysis of how much this is going to cost the city and where those budget cuts will be.

Leio

I wish we could log in and edit our comments. I always catch errors after I post :).

There are no demonstrable effects that show our current level of water usage is harmful.

Silent Bahb

I'm in the same boat, Leio. I always seem to catch them too late. :o)

sustainable

As was mentioned before: The amount of water that we take out of the aquifer is currently lowering the level of the Spokane River and is harming aquatic life and recreation not to mention contributing to the lack of the Spokane Falls (I know about Avista too...). People keep talking about a demonstrable effects - how about those three?

I understand what C is saying regarding the water going out to the ocean "being wasted" as well, but we also know that the ecosystem at the Columbia River Delta is very complex and is dependent on salt AND fresh water and we cannot assume that no negative impacts will occur by drawing as much fresh water as we like from the river as long as it still has enough flow for shipping.

Contrarian

The stats don't seem to bear out your claim, Sustainable. According to the USGS, mean annual flow for the Spokane River over a 117-year period (1891-2007) is 6682 cu.ft./sec. For the most recent complete years, 2006 and 2007, flows were 7052 and 5907, respectively. Annual runoff in acre/ft for the last two years are also right on the 117-year average.

http://wa.water.usgs.gov/data/realtime/adr/2007/12422500.2007.pdf

"we cannot assume that no negative impacts will occur by drawing as much fresh water as we like from the river . . ."

I respectfully disagree. We may assume exactly that, until some negative impacts are shown. We do not ask people to alter their lifestyles in order to forestall speculative "harms." (That is known as the "precautionary principle," or the "never get out of bed because something bad might happen to you" principle).

And when and if some negative impacts are shown, we weigh their costs against the costs of mitigating them before deciding upon a course of action.

Kate

Contrarian, do you have stats for the flow during the summer? Since that appears to be the most worrying time of year for the river today.

Also, when were the dams built? Are we looking at statistical normality once the structure of the river was drastically changed?

I do agree that we need to take a careful look at our assumptions regarding what is "normal" for ecosystems in the American West. After all drastic mistakes have been made in the past. Just think about fire suppression in the forests - it might've seemed right in the past, but we certainly made a mess of them.

Contrarian

The link I gave also has a monthly flow table, Kate. Flows during the summer months are definitely lower than in the early years of the century. That is because the State of Idaho requires Avista to maintain minimum levels in Lake Cd'A during the summer months, as part of the licensing requirements for the Post Falls dam. Without the dams summer river flows would be higher and the lake level lower.

Basically, you're trading poorer conditions for kayakers for better conditions for Cd'A power- and sailboaters, swimmers, and lakefront property owners. I'd guess the latter outnumber the former by 50 to 1 (and of course, many of the former, perhaps a majority, are from Spokane).

In any case, pumpage from the aquifer amounts to less than 5% of the river's mean annual flow. And most of that is eventually returned to the river anyway.

Contrarian

Oops, that should have been "many of the latter [boaters, swimmers]".

SF Columbia

Contrarian:

Drop me an email if you please, there's something I'd like to discuss with you.

Off the record of course.

sfcolumbia@hotmail.com

benJAMMIN

last word.

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