The April 18 article on the governor’s drought declaration left much unsaid. Neither the governor’s announcement nor the Ecology website indicates what actions might be taken in the Nooksack River Basin. What will be expected this summer from homeowners, businesses and farmers? How will these actions affect fish and other wildlife, which already receive less water than they need? As the article noted, “The Nooksack basin is home to the endangered Chinook, steelhead and bull trout.”
If a utility asks its customers to eliminate outdoor water use, the meter data it collects monthly will tell it how well its customers respond. Similarly, if a utility adds a summer surcharge, customers will likely reduce their water use to save money.
Neither approach works for our agricultural sector. Farmers usually self-supply water, so they don’t pay anyone for water. Also, agricultural water use is generally not metered, so we won’t know whether farmers reduce their water use. Because agriculture, especially irrigation, is by far the largest summer water user (almost two-thirds of the total), farmers will have to contribute substantially to drought relief.