December 2023 Edition

2023 State Conference Recap

Session 6: Issues of Statewide Significance

Summary by Anurag Mishra, Water Resources Engineer at Geosyntec Consultants

The final session focused on state-wide issues.  The speakers were Crystal Raymond, Ria Berns, Jon Devaney, and Alan Reichman. The presentations focused on climate change, statewide agriculture, and municipal water law.

Crystal Raymond, a climate adaptation specialist at the University of Washington, started with the presentation on the impacts of climate change on water supply in Washington state. One of the primary challenges that the state will face is the seasonal distribution of streamflow hydrographs. Peak flow is increasing and moving earlier into spring due to increased snowmelt, and the summer base flows are decreasing. She underscored that the impacts of climate change will likely be severe, and that without adaptation, the challenges will intensify. Some of the key predictions by Crystal suggested a 55-60% loss of snowpack by the end of the century. She acknowledged the uncertainty in the climate models but also emphasized that we need to show a willingness to move forward knowing that there is uncertainty in the model outputs. 

Ria Berns, program manager for the Department of Ecology, touched on several initiatives by the Department of Ecology to address climate change and its impacts. She emphasized that the existing tools are no match for future conditions, and the state needs a more comprehensive strategy for climate change. The state is working on updating the climate change strategy and the interested folks can visit this page to learn more about it and provide comments. Washington's climate strategy - Washington State Department of Ecology. The Department of Ecology is also focused on Environmental Equity as demonstrated by the “Healthy Environment for All Act”. The bill directs state agencies to adopt and implement an environmental justice strategy that identifies and addresses the impacts of their actions on overburdened communities and vulnerable populations.

Jon Devaney, President of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, focused on Washington agriculture and water issues. Washington State agriculture is a more than $10 billion industry, and about 28% of that comes from fruit. The tree fruit industry faces unique challenges compared to regular agriculture. For example, there cannot be any land fallowing in drought years. Excess temperature can cause sun burns in the fruits, and farmers have to cool them down using mist and/or cover which can be very expensive. Fruit farmers are trying different varieties due to changing weather patterns, but the new varieties typically take multiple years before they can be harvested. Facing all these challenges, many local farms are being bought out.

The session’s final speaker was Alan Reichman, who is a Senior Counsel in the Ecology Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s office. Alan focused on specific effects of Municipal Water Law.

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