Yakima Basin Adjudication – 2013 Supreme Court Ruling

The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling in March that is believed to represent the last “brick” in the very lengthy water right adjudication process started in 1977. The ruling addresses several thorny issues in the Ahtanum Creek Sub-basin west of the City of Yakima. This sub-basin has the most complex legal history in the entire Yakima Basin and was left until last for that reason.

The significance of the ruling is not so much in its findings as in the fact that this ruling essentially clears the way for the longest-term and most expensive adjudication in State history to be completed. The results can then be used as a basis for water resource management in the Yakima Basin. This is likely to facilitate implementation of several projects intended to enhance the seasonal availability of water throughout the basin and could lead to economically and environmentally advantageous active management efforts.

Ecology’s Water Right General Adjudications webpage provides a good summary of the process, and includes a link to a Yakima Herald newspaper article about the ruling for those who are not inclined to read Supreme Court rulings in their entirety. For those with judicio-masochistic tendencies, the full text of the ruling can be accessed here.

Ecology’s new Certified Water Rights Examiner program

Central WA surface water diversion gate

Central WA surface water diversion gate               (Photo credit: Mike Brady)

As directed by the Washington State legislature, the Department of Ecology has established a new program to speed the processing of water rights by certifying qualified professionals as Certified Water Rights Examiners (CWRE). Under this program, a CWRE will accomplish the final site inspection and review required to move a water right permit to certificate status, a function previously completed by Ecology staff.

Ecology finalized its rule making process in November 2011, creating Chapter 173-165 WAC, as authorized by the new law RCW 90.03.655. The program is expected to begin in 2013 after the first round of CWRE examinations have been completed (likely in the spring). Ecology’s news release provides an overview of the program and additional information is available on Ecology’s website.

In short, the program will work like this: When a water right application is approved, Ecology issues a permit with a timeline for the user to put the full appropriation to use. Once the user determines that their use fully meets the limits of the permit, they apply to Ecology to move the permit to certificate status by submitting a Proof of Appropriation form. This proof request must be confirmed through a field visit and examination before the certificate can be issued. The permit holder will hire a CWRE, have them complete the final examination process, and submit their findings to Ecology. Ecology will then issue the certificate based on those findings.

From our perspective as one of Ecology’s approved cost-reimbursement contractors, we view the CWRE program as a useful expansion of the cooperation between Ecology and the private sector. Robinson Noble will have CWREs on staff and will offer these services as soon as Ecology’s examination process is completed. Our services will then support water users from start to finish in a water rights process, from application, through permit approval, and ending with proof of appropriation certification by a CWRE.

A SiLi Bead Seminar Indeed

I had seen a presentation at the 2011 NGWA Expo by Mr. Reinhard Klause of Sigmund Lindner, a German manufacturer of precision glass bead products, on an innovative well-design technology—the use of glass beads as filter pack material. I thought the idea merited further discussion, so when I heard that Reinhard was going to visit the Pacific Northwest, my colleagues and I scrambled to organize a seminar.

To maximize the value of the seminar, we invited a broad cross-section of the groundwater community, including drilling contractors, water utilities, well design consultants, the regulatory community, and materials suppliers. We were only able to provide a few days’ notice, but people responded quickly to our invitation. Thank you to all who dropped everything to “come to the party.” I would also like to thank Burt Clothier (RN) and Bill Lum (Ecology) for working to qualify the event for continuing education credits for our driller guests and to Stan French and John Bowman (Lakehaven Utility District) for providing access to the Lakehaven Center meeting facility in Federal Way. Continue reading

Red is Good, Green is Bad

Noble’s Notes: “A quarterly recollection from 40 years of service to the groundwater community.”

By John Noble

[Ed. Note: The following article originally appeared in our first newsletter edition, published in October 1999.]

Some things that are so obvious turn out to be not true at all. One of these is predicting the presence of iron in ground water – perhaps the most common and pervasive water quality problem with wells in much of the country. Ground water with dissolved iron commonly looks as pure and pristine as a mountain stream. However, it tastes like rusty pipes. The taste is bad enough, but let the water stand in air overnight and the iron will precipitate out into a red floc which is truly ugly. When I used to canvass domestic wells in Western Washington, under negative comments of quality, the commonest was “red water” or “too much iron”. Many drillers I have known have bypassed zones of red sands and gravels that are obviously rich in iron. They wanted a satisfied customer for their finished well. Unhappily, they were often dead wrong. The obvious problem was not really there at all. Continue reading

NGWA Recognizes Robinson Noble Donation to Museum Collection

The National Ground Water Association’s (NGWA) Research and Education Foundation maintains a collection of historical scientific equipment related to the groundwater industry. In their 2011 Annual Report, NGWA recognized Robinson Noble’s donation of a circa. 1969 Stevens Type F water level recorder to the museum collection. The museum’s collection is hosted online at the Virtual Museum of Ground Water History; the Stevens Type F is located in the “Focus On the Science” wing.

This water level recorder pre-dated the solid-state water level sensors and dataloggers that are widely available today. The unit operated by means of a float and a weight suspended over a pulley via a beaded wire. The beads on the wire meshed with indentations on the pulley such that when water levels changed, the float moved up and down causing the pulley and attached drum to rotate. A pen traced a record of the water level change on chart paper affixed to the drum. The pen moved laterally across the chart paper by means of a clock drive, generating a real-time hydrograph. This model has a wind-up, gear-driven clock drive, but newer models are battery-powered and use quartz clock movements or solid-state circuitry.

Eliminating Known Unknowns

One question our hydrogeologists are commonly asked about problem wells is “Where has our water gone?” A very interesting question and one that is much harder to answer then you might think. Our newsletters over the years have discussed some of the ways in which the groundwater industry has changed, but one thing has remained constant-the need for good quality water level data. Robinson Noble has assisted numerous water purveyors with the development and implementation of well field monitoring plans designed to provide good quality data and foster proactive aquifer management. Generally, these monitoring plans have focused on the collection of long term aquifer water levels and production data. However, monitoring plans can also be tailored to a specific well or aquifer concern.
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