The Methow Watershed Council (MWC) installed 12 water meters two years ago in a pilot project to collect real-time data about how much water is used for single-domestic households and livestock in the Methow Valley.
The council also commissioned a contractor to update an Okanogan County database to track the number of residential parcels to determine how much of the water reserved for the watershed from the Methow River is actually being used. The projects were covered by a grant from the state Department of Ecology to quantify peak consumptive use and determine the best method for determining the water remaining in that reservation.
After an October 2021 report on the metering, the MWC concluded that the pilot project was not extensive enough to provide worthwhile data and voted to terminate it, although they will continue to collect data from existing meters, according to the MWC’s draft report to Ecology on the project.
Comment on water-metering report
The public can comment on the water-metering report through May 16. For a copy of the report, go to www.methowwatershed.com and go to the turquoise box at the bottom of the page with “Latest News.” The report and a link for commenting are at the bottom of the box.
The report recommends that any future grants be put toward a review of the water-use database and of recent changes in water law that affect water and land use in the Methow watershed, informed by best-available science.
The MWC report doesn’t include the data obtained from the meters, but says that information from the metering and county database didn’t warrant changing the estimate of 710 gallons of water per day for residential use in the Methow. That amount has been used for a decade to calculate consumptive water use, based on a 2011 study done by Aspect Consulting.
In the draft report, the MWC also recommends further research and data collection to account for instream flows, potential buildout of existing parcels and associated projections for water use, and the feasibility of developing and operating a water bank. They also recommend updating the water-use database to reflect zoning changes and produce an accurate count of parcels that should be debited from the total water allocated for the watershed.
The draft report notes that having this information could help with future updates or clarifications of the Methow Rule, which governs water use in the Methow watershed.
The Methow Rule sets aside water for single-domestic wells to supply a house and livestock before any other water use. Water for the towns and irrigation get lower priority, and group-domestic use isn’t permitted without a special water right. The rule created seven reaches, from Early Winters to the Lower Methow, and allocated 2 cubic feet per second (cfs) to each one, a total of 14 cfs for the watershed. One cfs is almost 449 gallons per minute.
Studies done over the past decade have found that most reaches have plenty of water, but others, such as the Lower Methow, would run out of water if every existing lot were developed.