Enough water for ag (sustainable, regenerative ag).
Households have adequate water for healthy families!
We should be a center for Art. It does not take much water to create a vibrant art scene. Provides jobs!
Shift from capitalist thinking that a vibrant life has to do with money.
No more houses except in towns.
All our wildlife still here.
Asked to visualize the future of the Methow Valley, people offered wide-ranging ideas at two recent workshops called Water 2066. Water 2066 was conceived by the Methow Watershed Council to develop a vision for the Methow Valley — its lifestyle, economy, and environment — 50 years from now. The council is inviting all interested parties to share their dreams and concerns about the world we bequeath to future generations.
About 110 people attended the two workshops in Twisp last week. After a brief overview of state water law and the rule that governs water usage in the Methow, attendees shared their ideas by posting sticky notes about different topics around the room.
Some people used pictures to represent their image of the future — families hiking on trails, bears in the woods, and birds and fish thriving. People talked in informal groups and added their own sticky notes to respond to others’ ideas.
The council is still compiling the input — and collecting surveys from people who couldn’t attend — so it’s too early to draw any conclusions, Ashley Thrasher, chair of the watershed council, said. They’re very pleased with the level of interest and careful thought community members are giving the issue, she said.
Participants were urged not only to consider current water issues, but to start with a clean slate so they’re not constrained in imagining the future. Seven workstations around the room helped organize input around the vision for the Methow, water-rights transfers, land use and water storage, among other topics.
In casual conversations at the meeting, some attendees voiced a sense of urgency about water issues. “How do you figure in climate change? We’re not talking 50 years — we’re talking now,” one said.
“They’re really good conversations. There are no answers, just good questions,” said another.
WHAT’S YOUR IDEAL WATER FUTURE?
People can still provide input about the future of the Methow Valley through a survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/TKXFW9Q. The survey asks about priorities for water use, residential and commercial development, fish, and water storage.
A video of the Water 2066 presentation, made by Okanogan County Watch, is available on the watershed council website at www.methowwatershed.com under “Projects,” then “Water 2066.” There is a link to the survey on that page (see the end of the first paragraph).
The watershed council was formed in 1999 to assist in managing water supplies for a sustainable balance between human and ecological needs. The council also helps educate the community about water. It includes representatives from around the valley and elected officials from Twisp, Winthrop and Okanogan County.
It’s been about 15 years since the council developed a list of priorities. Input from Water 2066 will help the council determine if these priorities need to be updated to reflect what the community wants, Thrasher said. Current priorities are:
• preserve water for agriculture
• provide adequate water for towns
• investigate and implement water-storage opportunities
• initiate studies to inform water-supply policy decisions
• revise the 1976 “Methow rule,” which allocates a certain amount of water for the Methow Valley and sets priorities for water use
At the Water 2066 meetings, Travis Thornton, a water attorney and member of the watershed council, explained Washington water law and the Methow rule.
The rule gives first priority to households (which includes watering a garden and livestock), followed by water in rivers for fish (instream flows), and then everything else (including more water for the towns).
Because the Methow rule makes single-domestic residential development the top priority, even if the county or towns decide that Winthrop and Twisp should get first dibs the rule doesn’t currently allow that, Thornton said.
All water belongs to the people of the state, Thornton said. Water use is administered by the Washington Department of Ecology, which must approve all changes in use, such as from agriculture to residential or commercial use. A new water use can’t impair the water use by someone who has seniority.
The presentation included data that tracks the growth of the Methow Valley by decade through the number of new residential wells.
Between 1911 and 1940, there were just three wells. Another 60 were constructed by 1970. Then things really started booming. The Methow added 802 wells in the next two decades. The biggest surge in growth was from 1991 to 2000, when 1,332 new wells were drilled. Another 1,161 have been drilled since then.
As part of the Water 2066 process, the watershed council will meet with 10 stakeholder groups to get their input. Those groups include elected officials from Okanogan County, Twisp and Winthrop; the Methow Conservancy; the Methow Valley Citizens Council; irrigation districts; the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; the Colville Tribes and the Yakama Nation; and the Okanogan County Farm Bureau.
Water 2066 is separate from other planning activities, such as Okanogan County’s comprehensive plan and zoning code. Ideally, the results of Water 2066 can help inform county-wide planning, Thrasher said.
Consultants from the Washington Water Trust and Dally Environmental will compile the Water 2066 input in a report that’s expected to be completed at the end of March.