The Columbia Basin Sustainable Water Coalition, a group of water purveyors and other municipal and small community water systems stakeholders, was formed in 2018 to address domestic Columbia Basin groundwater supply issues and create locally-driven recommendations that influence water delivery methods and policy for long-term groundwater solutions.

The League has been a Coalition stakeholder since the group’s inception.  Although the League’s current work to advocate for the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP) has been categorized as an effort to solve water supply issues for deep well agricultural irrigators drawing from the depleting Odessa aquifer, the reality is that OGWRP has far greater impact.  Transferring those irrigators from deep wells to Columbia Basin Project surface water is environmentally responsible and it preserves the Odessa aquifer for domestic supplies.  OGWRP can be part of the Coalition’s solution to domestic water supply issues.  So, there is an inherent connection between the work of the League and the work of the Coalition.

To further emphasize the importance of that connection, the League acknowledges that if Columbia Basin Project communities are threatened by water supply insecurity, so too are the service and supply providers based in those communities.  And, ultimately the farms whose owners and employees live in those communities are also threatened.  If Columbia Basin Project communities dry up, so does Columbia Basin Project agriculture.

But, last year, with sponsor assistance from the Lincoln County Conservation District, a $100,000 federal Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART grant was awarded to support the Coalition to build on efforts to resolve water quantity issues in the Mid-Columbia Basin.  Efforts under the short-term WaterSMART grant are intended to help the Coalition gain momentum in what is hoped to be longer-term service to Columbia Basin communities.  The end goal is for the Coalition’s work to inform and influence decision makers so that they may create policies and direct resources for long term groundwater solutions.

The grant project has two primary objectives.   On the technical side, the grant will fund selected contractors—Landau Associates and GeoEngineers—to build on studies done by the Columbia Basin Groundwater Management Area (GWMA), collect data representing experiences of municipal water systems in the Basin, and add that data to the larger effort in the Basin seeking to preserve groundwater levels.

The second grant objective is organizational refinement of the Coalition. Still in its infancy, it is a loosely organized group in need of more structure and stakeholder engagement.  With a sense of responsibility to the Coalition’s purpose, the League responded to the call for contractors to facilitate Coalition development, and the League was selected for that work which will extend over the next year.  Meetings of the Coalition have been held regularly this year thanks to support from the Washington State Department of Commerce.  The League kicked off its facilitation of the Coalition on June 23.  Community water system owners and purveyors are welcome to participate.  More info:  sara@cbdl.org

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