Two major forces - climate change and population growth - are pressuring water resources and adding urgency to the calls for better water management and water policies. Most of Washington's water laws are a century old, created when our state had a fraction of today's population. At the same time, our local economy is changing - for instance, recreational fishing now contributes millions of dollars annually to our region's economy. People are coming from all over the Northwest to fish the Wenatchee, Methow and Entiat rivers for steelhead and the Columbia River for steelhead and salmon. Locally, agriculture is one of the economic drivers and requires sustainable water supplies.
As a result of these increased pressures, we need to embrace smart, collaborative water policies that bring all stakeholders together to find innovative, commonsense solutions to our water supply needs, now and in to the future.
Fortunately, solutions are within reach. Here's where we can start:
Trout Unlimited is an organization of sportsmen and sportswomen dedicated to preserving our magnificent rivers and outdoor heritage for future generations. We know that partnerships work, because we see them work every day. For example, Trout Unlimited's Washington Water Project is partnering with a local irrigation district, state, federal and local agencies, the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust and others on a project in the Wenatchee River that could enhance fish habitat and stream flows by 15 cubic feet per second while improving agricultural operations and delivery systems for water. The Trout Unlimited Icicle Valley Chapter contributes an average of 3,295 volunteer hours per year, working to improve cold-water resources in our community, much of that working with youth and habitat restoration activities.
No, it's not always easy, but we believe working, collaborative partnerships offer the best way to reach successful solutions.
It will be difficult to meet all of our future needs - people and communities, agriculture and industry, fish and wildlife - but we can get there if we work together to carefully manage the resource.
It's about being good stewards - and good neighbors.
Lisa Pelly is director of Trout Unlimited Washington Water Project. She has worked for more than two decades on water and natural resource issues. She previously served on the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.