Water is key

In 1973, my husband and I left Moscow after receiving good educations at the University of Idaho that allowed us to pursue successful professional careers. Forty years later, I returned to Moscow, a widow, to enjoy retirement in the culturally rich atmosphere of twin college towns.

In the eight years since I returned to the Palouse, I have not regretted my decision to come back. But even in idyllic towns like Moscow and Pullman we must deal with the challenges of climate change. High on the list for survival of human beings is safe drinking water.

The two aquifers that supply drinking water to Moscow and Pullman are dwindling and don’t appear to be recharging. Lenna Harding’s excellent column and several recent letters to the editor point out numerous ways that individuals can reduce their water use. Exhorting individuals to conserve water is appropriate but will hardly address the whole problem. We have local governments in part because they can accomplish what we as individuals cannot.

Some recent letters question the wisdom of permitting large residential developments without having real plans to secure additional water supplies. A local official’s response was that, in the middle of a development application approval process, they don’t have the authority to use proposed water consumption as a criterion to approve some applications and not others. That is probably true. This is where a true planning process comes in.

Right away the cities need to embark on a rigorous look, with community input, at their future development hopes and needs. From that process can come the appropriate comprehensive plans, development codes, transportation system plans, natural resource plans and other tools that will allow development that makes sense.

This is not meant to insult the hard-working planning commissioners and planning staffs of either city. But clearly things are not working when the WSU golf course is still using aquifer water for its irrigation and Moscow is going to allow a new development to use untold amounts of water, and permit its residents to drive through a hilly, long-established neighborhood to get to virtually all the places they want to go.

Sue Engels


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