Millions of Americans take access to clean, safe and abundant water for granted every day. Turn on the tap, and clean water flows out. Flush the toilet, and dirty water goes away. With reliable water supplies and services, people don’t have to think twice about the infrastructure that brings water to their homes, and then safely returns water to the environment – but everyone should be concerned with the fragility of those systems.
Take a moment to think about what would happen if you couldn’t turn on the tap and get clean drinking water, or if you flushed the toilet and wastewater didn’t go anywhere. What would that day be like? What would firefighters do? Could hospitals be sanitary without clean tap water, or without wastewater service? Would restaurants and hotels be able to serve guests? Would farmers be able to water their crops or care for their livestock? Would manufacturing plants that require vast amounts of clean water, such as breweries or paper mills, shut down? We take for granted that we don’t have to ask those questions every day. But what does this look like for us here on the Palouse?
To better understand our water situation, please join us beginning at 4:30 p.m on Thursday, Oct. 10 for the 16th Annual Palouse Basin Water Summit. at the SEL Event Center in Pullman. You’ll find details at www.palousebasinwatersummit.org.
Joining us this year is international water expert and author, Brian Richter. Richter is the president of Sustainable Waters, a global water education organization, where he promotes sustainable water use and management with governments, corporations, universities, and local communities.
He previously served as managing director for the Global Water Program at The Nature Conservancy. Additionally, he serves as a water advisor to some of the world’s largest corporations, investment banks, and the United Nations, and has testified before the US Congress on multiple occasions. His book, “Chasing Water – A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability,” is available at BookPeople of Moscow.
Besides Richter, the summit will also feature local water experts and research scientists who will share information and perspectives about our water resources, the impacts of climate change and conservation updates, including presentations from Korey Woodley, PBAC executive manager; Julie Padowski, assistant director of WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education, and Outreach and clinical assistant professor with the State of Washington Water Research Center; and Adrienne Marshall, postdoctoral fellow, Water Resources Program at the University of Idaho.
In his book, Richter writes, “Hundreds of books and thousands of technical papers have been written on the subject of water management, and yet so many communities continue to crash into the wall of scarcity. … To avert scarcity going forward, I believe that we will need to enable and empower more localized decision-making and management processes that can be rightsized to the particular needs, uses, economics and cultures associated with the sharing of water sources. Ultimately, effective water management will require both technical capacity and appropriate engagement of water users and other local interests.”
Richter continues, “Empowering local communities of water users will require that we overcome pervasive water illiteracy. The stark reality is that most people alive today could not begin to sketch the global water cycle, do not know how the water sources they depend upon are being used and by whom, and do not even know where their water comes from. Lacking such knowledge, they cannot possibly contribute to any sort of citizen-centered water democracy in any meaningful and productive way.”
Thankfully, that is not the case here on the Palouse. We are engaged and more water literate than many communities thanks in large part to the important work of our communities and universities, the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee and community conversations like our summit. However, we must continually take stock of our water resources to insure we can reap the benefits of a water-secure future. Otherwise, like many other communities we’ll continue down a path of chasing water.
Jon Kimberling is a former Moscow city councilman, owns Kimberling Insurance and co-founder of the Palouse Basin Water Summit.
Paul Kimmell is a former Latah County commissioner, and serves as regional business manager for Avista Corp. He is a member of the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee and co-founder of the Palouse Basin Water Summit.