Water Supply

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Water Supply, both the quantity and quality of surface and ground waters is a large interrelated set of topics, and one of the ecosystem service priorities of government. This page and its associated topic provides an overview of water cycle management.

Local Management of Water

  • Most counties have a surface water management work group within a public works department. This group may have some of the authorities of an independent public utility (for example Seattle Public Utilities).
  • In some counties, some water management functions may be delegated to a diking or drainage district, a watershed improvement district, or other Special Purpose District.
  • Most counties have a land use planning and regulatory workgroup. This group defines land use regulations based on state law, reflected in county codes. Of particular importance for ecosystem management are Critical Area Ordinances and Comprehensive Plans driven by the Growth Management Act which limit activities and determine the intensity of development near water systems, and Shoreline Master Plans driven by the Shoreline Managment Act which is intended to specifically prevents net loss of ecological functions near water systems.

State Management of Water

  • State water laws govern Water Rights, and one kind of water right is a reservation of water for In Stream Flow
  • State law also specifies water quality standards, which determine if a body of water is in violation and should be the subject of some kind of corrective action.
  • The Washington State Department of Ecology has the greatest authority over water systems, both under state law, and through delegation of federal authority.
  • Washington State Department of Commerce is responsible for defining procedures for implementing the Growth Management Act which affects private activities that affect the function of water systems.

Federal Management of Water

  • Clean Water Act is the driver of federal water management. Section 404 drives regulation of wetlands. The EPA is responsible for implementing most of the clean water act, however the USACE has specific roles in wetland management, and many federal authorities are delegated to WDOE.
  • Water affects endangered salmon and so federal agencies that effect water quantity or quality are required to consult with NOAA or USFWS (Depending on the species) about whether the program is meeting Endangered Species Act requirements. This affects water quality standards, and flow requirements.

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