Perspectives on Water Resources Engineering: Taylor Dayton in the Zweig Newsletter

Taylor Dayton, Project Engineer

Taylor Dayton, Project Engineer

Aspect’s Taylor Dayton was recently interviewed in the Zweig Newsletter on a range of topics — from transitioning from working at NASA as a biochemist to an engineer, to learning water rights legends, project management lessons learned, and navigating an early career in the water resources field.

Read about it here: Apple orchards and water rights

Waiting for Water - the Columbia Basin Project

Aspect works routinely with clients suffering from declining groundwater supplies. From conservation and planning projects to aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) projects, Aspect is at the forefront of this issue. ASR projects in Othello and White Salmon are underway now that will assist in long-term certainty for public water supplies in the future. In agriculture, we are partnering with Washington State University to forecast how declining water supplies will affect commercial crop reliability and assessing the conservation, storage, and water marketing tools that exist both locally and regionally to assist them. One of the largest declining groundwater areas in the state is in the Columbia Basin.

This video “Waiting for Water – The Columbia Basin Project” produced by the Columbia Basin Development League is a great introduction into the complexities of these issues for farmers in Washington. Aspect staff assisted in the permitting and environmental review for this project.

The State’s Longest-Running Water Rights Adjudication is Coming to an End

In 1977, James J. Acquavella’s name was listed first on the summons when Ecology filed a petition for an adjudication to determine the legality of all claims for surface water in the Yakima River Basin – birthing the Ecology v. James Acquvella, et al water rights case. Forty-two years and 2,500 claimants and interested parties later, it is coming to a close. Some takeaways for this milestone moment in Washington state water management are:

  • Starting in 1977, the Department of Ecology v. Acquavella adjudication is the longest-running general adjudication in state history, determining the validity and establishing priority of surface water claims in the Yakima Basin.

  • With the issuance of the Final Decree by Yakima County Superior Court, water right holders in the Yakima Basin will finally have certainty over the authorized quantities and purposes and places of use of their water right claims.

  • Adjudicated water right certificates will be issued by Ecology for all claims determined by the Court to be valid; water right holders will no longer need to get approval of the Court to complete a change or transfer a water right, but instead file applications with Ecology like everywhere else in the State.

  • During the adjudication, stakeholders in the Yakima Basin continued to lead the state in providing innovative approaches to water resource management challenges, including early adoption of water banking and mitigation markets to ease permitting of new water rights, and development and implementation of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.

Aspect has worked on a variety of Aquavella claims over the decades – including hundreds of due diligence water right evaluations; helping buyers/sellers move and change these rights; and developing water banks through the State’s Trust Water Right Program to support efficient transfer of existing rights and permitting of new, mitigated water rights.

Read the fascinating tale of water management in the Yakima River Basin and the implications of this ruling in this great Department of Ecology blog post.

See what else Aspect’s Water Resources practice has been up to.

The $82 Million Icicle Creek Subbasin Watershed Plan Hits a Milestone

This Seattle Times article provides an in-depth look at the complex mix of aging alpine dams, world-renowned wilderness area, and the potential of changing climate patterns in the Icicle Creek Subbasin. The spotlight’s on this North Central Washington region as the 6+ year Icicle Creek Subbasin strategy hit a recent milestone with the release of the project’s Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

Since 2012, Aspect has been the facilitation and technical lead for this effort, serving a broad working group of city and county agencies, tribes, fisheries, irrigators, and the community. The overall program is designed to improve instream flows, assist in agricultural sustainability, and provide for local domestic growth beyond the year 2050 at an investment of $82 million over the next 10 years.

Dan Haller Presents to the Water Mitigation Task Force

Aspect is routinely involved in helping inform State policy makers on implications of existing and proposed legislation. Our staff track and comment on existing legislation, help our clients propose new legislation, and interact with State agencies as they propose and shape new water policy. Aspect’s Dan Haller was asked in the summer of 2018 to provide a presentation on mitigation projects and mitigation sequencing to the Washington State Joint Legislative “Water Mitigation Task Force”. This Task Force is charged with evaluating how the law could be changed to adopt mitigation standards for water projects where water-for-water cannot be supplied for a project in-time and in-place. Often the “in-time” component of mitigation is the most challenging element as supply and demand are hard to match perfectly.

Dan speaks about several mitigation projects Aspect staff have worked on in recent years, including:

  • Town of Twisp / Methow Valley Irrigation District, which paired an irrigation project rehabilitation with water banking to offset growth in the Town for the next 20 years.

  • Lake Roosevelt Drawdown, which re-operates Grand Coulee Dam by 1 foot making that supply available for agricultural reliability, instream flow, and municipal use.

  • Kittitas County Consumptive Use Pilot, which seeks to clarify the exact nature and magnitude of indoor domestic use.

  • Chelan County Alluvial Storage Pilot, which seeks to engineer natural storage log jams to retime water from spring to summer.

Check out the video of Dan’s presentation below.

Next Step in Icicle Creek Basin Solution – June 27 Public Hearing in Leavenworth

Taking the next step in a process that began in 2012, Chelan County and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology)  have released the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Icicle Creek Water Resource Management Strategy (Icicle Strategy). The Draft PEIS will be summarized and discussed at a public hearing on Wednesday, June 27 from 4pm to 8pm at Leavenworth Festhalle, 1001 Front Street, Leavenworth, WA. The PEIS evaluates five alternatives to help the Icicle Work Group (IWG) map out a solution for instream flow, tribal, agricultural, domestic, and recreational water needs for the Icicle Creek Subbasin in central Washington.

See Chelan County’s Icicle Strategy website for more information. Aspect has helped coordinate the development of the PEIS, along with multiple teaming partners and co-leads Chelan County and Ecology.

Aspect’s Dan Haller Sharing His Water Rights Strategies and Discussing the New Exempt Well Legislation at the Central Washington Agriculture Seminar

On April 6th, Aspect’s Dan Haller will be speaking on three water right topics: how to stretch your existing rights to cover new irrigated lands (spreading), the new legislation on rural exempt wells (ESSB 6091), and relinquishment protection strategies

Join Dan and other distinguished speakers for the FREE Central Washington Agriculture Seminar.

What the Hirst “Fix” Signals for WA's Rural Water Users and Managers

Last month, after months of delay that even stopped Washington state’s capital budget from passing, the Washington State House and Senate passed ESSB 6091 to address legal water availability issues for exempt well users stemming from the landmark Whatcom County v. Hirst case. Because of the complexity of implementing the new law, it is too soon to know all of the consequences of this proposed fix. However, here are several early takeaways:

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What it means

  • In many, but not all, areas of the state, the new law allows building permits relying on exempt wells in areas with instream flows to be approved by local jurisdictions without reviewing each case for impairment considerations.
  • Overall impairment to instream flows caused collectively by new exempt wells is to be addressed through restarting the watershed planning process in Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs) with no adopted Watershed Plan, or through an update of existing adopted Watershed Plans.  
  • Plan recommendations to improve streamflows may include, among other options, acquiring senior water rights, water conservation, water reuse, off-channel storage, and aquifer recharge. 
  • Several watersheds were specifically excluded from the law based on other regulatory considerations, including:
    • Watersheds with instream flow rules that explicitly regulate exempt wells and provide for reserves, such as the Stillaguamish, Methow, and Wenatchee basins. These watersheds must rely on the finite reserves of water already allocated.
    • Federally regulated watersheds (Yakima basin).

How we got here

Under existing state law (RCW 90.44.050), the groundwater permit exemption allows, for a limited number of purposes, water users to construct and develop groundwater wells for small quantities of groundwater without obtaining a permit. In October of 2016, in a landmark decision on the use of exempt wells and county responsibility for evaluating impacts from the wells on instream flows, the Washington Supreme Court (Court) ruled in the Whatcom County v. Hirst case that the Growth Management Act (GMA) placed an independent responsibility to ensure water availability on counties, not on Ecology. Counties across the state had varying responses to the decision, with some placing a moratorium on granting building permits relying on unmitigated exempt wells, others including disclaimers on proof of legal water availability, and others taking a wait and see approach.

New $500 fee and new Exempt Well Use Limitations

The new Bill 6091 requires a new $500 fee to be paid as part of obtaining a building permit relying on an exempt well, to support watershed planning efforts.  In basins with adopted Watershed Plans, the law allows an exempt well to use a maximum average of 3,000 gallons per day, while in basins with no watershed plan, a limitation of 950 gallons per day is imposed.

Understanding of Bill 6091 Still Evolving

The Washington Department of Ecology is responsible for implementing ESSB 6091, and is still formulating relevant policy. As general understanding and consensus evolves, Aspect will continue to comment on this for clients.

The following link provides the Washington Department of Ecology’s Initial Policy Interpretations on ESSB 6091:https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/wrx/wrx/fsvr/ecylcyfsvrxfile/WaterRights/wrwebpdf/6091-EcologyPolicyInterpretations.pdf

The following link provides the Hirst Supreme Court Decision:https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/wrx/wrx/fsvr/ecylcyfsvrxfile/WaterRights/wrwebpdf/91475-3opinion.pdf

New Yakima County Utility Attempting to Balance Rural Development and Water Use

Yakima County is investing $500,000 in grant money to establish a utility it hopes will help resolve water rights and water use conflicts for new developments in rural areas of Yakima County. Aspect’s Dan Haller was asked to weigh on the current value of water rights in the region based on our work assisting Kittitas, Spokane, Chelan, Klickitat, and other counties facing similar issues.  Read the full article HERE.

From Water Wars to Water Policy – 100 Years of Washington Water Code

This year marks 100 Years of water rights in Washington state. In parallel with this centennial, water rights have received a flood of recent attention in the public eye, primarily because of the role the Hirst decision has played in halting the state’s $4 Billion capital budget.

Image credit: Washington State Department of Ecology

Image credit: Washington State Department of Ecology

To take the pulse of the water managers, policy makers, and others who steer water law in the state, Aspect conducted a reporter’s roundtable to hear thoughts on Washington water policy today and for the future. Read their account in this month’s “The Water Report”, as well as a fascinating look back to the pre-code, wild west era where dynamite was occasionally preferred as a dispute resolution tool for water management.

Also, be sure to check out the excellent story map and video series developed by the Washington State Department of Ecology on this topic. Lastly, the water code centennial will be the center of attention of next month’s American Water Resources Association – Washington Section (AWRA-WA) State Conference,  October 3, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.  
 

Seeing the Finish Line on New Lake Chelan Water Resources

Chelan PUD and Ecology, with technical water rights support from Aspect, are close to finalizing an agreement that frees up over 5,200 acre-feet per year of water rights for new development in the Lake Chelan Basin. This exciting milestone is the result of years of work by Ecology and Chelan PUD to assess how much water remains in a 65,000 acre-feet annual water reserve described in a 1992 Agreement. Read more details in the Wenatchee World article HERE.

Reach 4 of the Chelan River

Reach 4 of the Chelan River

Reducing Power Costs, Conserving Water, and Increasing Crop through On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency

Thanks to bountiful hydropower electricity, residents of North Central Washington benefit from some of the lowest power rates and live in one of the best fruit-growing regions in the United States. Successful fruit growers in the region are constantly pushing the envelope to reinvest in their crops and rediscover ways to economically maximize yield. Because regional power rates are so low, an often-overlooked opportunity for growers is optimizing pumping-related power costs. 

Power use can be a key tool to uncover significant cost savings and opportunities to gain water, and thus potentially expand fruit operations. Discussed in detail below, performing a power use analysis and implementing infrastructure efficiency improvements could potentially save a grower tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs and reduce water use by hundreds of acre-feet. In some cases, water saved can be used to expand orchard operations or be sold for profit. 

As this hypothetical apple farm scenario shows, a power and water audit has the potential for growers to identify opportunities to reduce power costs and save water at the same time

What Drives Pumping Energy Use?

Pressure and flow are the two primary factors that go into pump power costs, but there are other factors to consider. For example, the age and quality of pumps and motors influences their operating efficiency. A premium-efficiency motor may operate above 90 percent efficiency, whereas an older motor that hasn’t been rewound in a while may be only be 80 percent efficient (or even lower). Pumps have a range of efficiency also. A new properly sized pump operating at its best efficiency point could provide 80% efficiency. An older pump with worn impellers might provide efficiencies of 70 percent or less. 

Pumps operate most efficiently within a narrow range of flows, and efficiencies decrease rapidly when asked to operate outside that range. For example, a pump that was sized to deliver 500 gallons per minute (gpm) at 80 percent efficiency may only perform at 70 percent efficiency when operating at 400 gpm. 

Water Savings in Piping and Sprinkler Upgrades

Piped conveyance systems also contribute to overall system efficiency. Not only can hydraulic problems result in wasted energy, but losses and leakage can result in wasted flow. While 10 percent leakage in pipes is common (and acceptable), improving to a 5 percent leakage rate is achievable—and tremendously valuable. 

Finally, watering application efficiency (i.e., emitter type) can contribute dramatically to the total power bill. For example, a traditional impact sprinkler may be 75 percent efficient, while low-volume sprinklers may be 85 to 90 percent efficient. 

Impact Sprinkler (75 percent efficient)

Impact Sprinkler (75 percent efficient)

Low-volume Emitter Sprinkler (90 percent efficient)

Low-volume Emitter Sprinkler (90 percent efficient)

How to Save a Tree Fruit Grower $20,000 and 440 acre-feet of Water

Clearly, there are many opportunities to tighten up the “wire-to-water”, or in this case “wire-to-fruit,” efficiency. To help illustrate potential savings, consider a ranch with 500 acres of apples in North Central Washington. Hypothetically, the crops alone could take as much as 3.5 acre-feet of water per year. In this case, let’s assume that the irrigation method is with solid set over-tree impact sprinklers fed off an older series pump with an overall lift of 450 feet and an annual energy cost of approximately $57,000 (Current System; Table 1). Compare this to an optimized system with a premium-efficiency motor, properly-sized pump, limited leakage, and efficient emitters (Optimized System; Table 1).

We find that the estimated pump-related power costs could be reduced by one third—about $20,000 in savings! This is due both to a lower water volume being pumped and better efficiencies of the pumps and motors. While there are certainly valuable applications for running over-tree watering applications (e.g., cooling), innovative practices such as installing shade cloth can help mitigate burning effects on fruit in lieu of sprinklers.  The cost of making that conversion could be justifiable if the benefit includes significant power or water savings.

What to do with the Surplus Water? 

In this example, not only has the grower now saved considerable expense related to power costs, but has also managed to save 440-acre feet of water. In water markets, the consumptive use savings have the highest value; and in this instance, approximately 170-acre feet of the water saved is considered consumptive use. Assuming this water is associated with a perfected (certificated) water right, there are a number of ways this grower could benefit:

  • Market the water and transfer through a transaction (note: current value of water is in the $2,500 per acre-foot range). 
  • Spread the water and plant additional acreage.
  • Protect the water for future use through temporary trust donation (relinquishment protection).
  • Seed a water bank for use in other locations. 

Optimizing Your System Makes Sense from Many Perspectives

There is considerable value in looking at ways to better optimize your power and water use. Financial savings can come in the form of lower energy bills simply by modernizing and properly maintaining your system. However, the rewards of conserving water are not limited to lower power bills. In many cases, it is important to consider the market potential of water savings also. The first step to any of this is a power and water use analysis in consultation with a water resources professional.  
 

The Hirst Decision: The Water Law that Halted WA's Budget

While critical to water use and supply in Washington state, water rights typically keep a low profile in the public eye. That's all changed over the last couple of weeks as the Hirst decision has made the headlines as a key political sticking point that has, for now, stopped the state's $4 billion capital construction budget from being approved.

With the spotlight on this landmark water use decision, Aspect's Dan Haller was interviewed by the Yakima Herald to help understand it. The article also hears from builders and counties grappling with what Hirst means for them. 

Read it here:  Reporter's Notebook: Wondering about the Hirst decision, the state Supreme Court water use case that became a key political tactic in Olympia? Read this primer.

Helping Bring Clean Water To Guatemala

In 1985 a US doctor and his wife traveled to the Northwest highland area of Guatemala, where they observed areas of extreme poverty and little infrastructure. Dr. Leeon Aller, MD and his wife Virginia soon decided to dedicate themselves to helping this region and in 1991 established Hands for Peacemaking Foundation (HFPF), based in Everett, Washington. Going strong in 2017, the Foundation provides infrastructure and other support services to over 250 villages in this mountainous area, where running water and electricity are the exception and having clean drinking water can be a daily struggle for villagers. 

For many years, Aspect has been supporting HFPF efforts to help some of the area villages solve water supply challenges and also provide geological assistance with the landslide-prone environment these mountain villages exist in.

 The Water Story of San Francisco JolomtaJ

Located 10 miles from the nearest town of Barillas, San Francisco Jolomtaj is home to 160 families and does not have electricity or running water.  For drinking water, the villagers have a choice -- they can build wooden boxes like that pictured below or walk to a spring to get and carry back water (this can mean a 4-5 hour round trip trek).

Existing wooden box water supply for the village

Villagers trekking back up the mountain with water from the spring

To help this situation, Aspect and others are funding construction of rooftop rainwater collection system for the community school and individual families—primarily widows and the elderly who struggle to get water for themselves. 

San Francisco villagers loading supplies to build the tank system

Family and finished water tank

HFPF partners with the villagers to build the water systems. These systems don’t replace the spring sources, but they do provide critical water emergency supply and are filtered to block contaminants. The work in San Francisco is currently ongoing, with additional collector and tank systems constructed as funding allows.  You can learn more about this project and other humanitarian projects by visiting the  Hands for Peacemaking Foundations website.

Dan Haller Speaking on the Policy Implications of Climate Change on Water Supply Management, January 26th

Aspect’s Principal Water Resource Engineer, Dan Haller, will be discussing climate impacts to water on January 26th in Stevenson, Washington.  As future food production and processing systems in the region are expected to be challenged by water supply, the conference aims to create a dialogue among the communities that use and value the regions water supply and water quality. Dan will join a group of water resource experts to discuss policy implications of climate change on water supply management. Learn more about projected climate impacts on water accessibility in the Pacific Northwest and the sustainable management decisions HERE.

Tim Flynn Presenting on Adapting Water Supplies After One of Biggest Dam Removals in US History

Aspect’s Principal Hydrogeologist Tim Flynn will be presenting on adapting water supplies post-Condit Dam removal on January 26 at the ACEC Oregon’s ACEC/SW WA Public Agency Liaison meeting. Aspect has been helping the City of White Salmon for over a decade to improve municipal water supplies. Tim will discuss the progression of water rights affecting the Dam and the City; the ongoing development of source alternatives to reduce demand on local surface waters; and the use of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) to reduce surface water diversions during critical low flow periods. Learn more and register here.
 

The Story of Washington State's Water Future

Aspect Consulting partnered with Washington State University, the University of Utah, and Ecology’s Office of Columbia River to develop the 2016 Long-Term Water Supply and Demand Forecast.  From climate change to crop change, from municipal growth to hydropower demand, from water banking to declining groundwater, this report tells the story of how Washington is changing in response to a myriad of physical, economic, and legal challenges facing the State.  Over 2 years in the making, the report represents a comprehensive look at where Washington is going in the next 20 years and beyond.

Aspect Presenting on Topics Ranging from Hydrology and Water Rights to Water Supply and Demand Projections at Water Rights Transfers Seminar

Aspect’s Dan Haller and Tyson Carlson will be presenting at The Seminar Group’s 9th annual Water Rights Transfers seminar. On November 9th, Tyson will be presenting during the Hydrology And Water Rights portion of the seminar. He will be discussing approaches used to determine same body of public groundwater; groundwater – surface water continuity; potential impairment and water availability; and mitigation suitability.

The next day, Dan will join a panel to discuss the 2016 Water Supply and Demand Forecast. The group will present on the new supply/demand projections through 2035; water banking inventory; and economic evaluation on how the cost of water is affecting water supply development.

Learn more about the seminar HERE.

Landmark Hirst Water Rights Decision Increases Burden on Counties to Evaluate Exempt Well Impacts

In a landmark decision on the use of exempt wells and county responsibility for evaluating impacts from the wells on instream flows, the Washington Supreme Court (Court) recently overturned a lower court decision in the Whatcom County v. Hirst case.  The lower court decision appealed in this case essentially directed local governments to follow the Washington Department of Ecology’s (Ecology) interpretation of instream flow rules in determining water availability. This Court decision rescinds that direction, noting that the Growth Management Act (GMA) places an independent responsibility to ensure water availability on counties, not on Ecology.  The decision also noted that the fact that county provisions are wholly consistent with Ecology’s regulations does not, by itself, render them consistent with GMA requirements.

The Ruling Constrains Exempt Well Use in Washington

Under existing law (RCW 90.44.050), the groundwater permit exemption allows, for a limited number of purposes, water users to construct and develop groundwater wells for small quantities of groundwater without obtaining a permit.  According to the new ruling, there is no question that a permit-exempt well may not infringe on an earlier established right to water, including instream flow rules, under the doctrine of prior appropriation.  The Court also found it contradictory that Ecology must consider the effect of groundwater appropriations on minimum flows when issuing water right permits, while counties did not consider these same impacts when issuing building permits with exempt wells.  This means that in a basin with adopted minimum instream flows, any new exempt well or exempt well drilled after adoption of flows may be subject to interruption when flows are not met, rendering these wells legally unreliable as a continuous domestic water source.

The Ruling Increases County Responsibility for Water Availability Determinations under GMA

In addition, this ruling imposes a strict standard for county review of cumulative impairment from exempt wells due to rural development.  Aspect has been working with Spokane, Stevens, and Pend Oreille Counties to establish a water bank for the Little Spokane River watershed.  A water bank is a mechanism that facilitates transfer of water rights between sellers and buyers through use of the state’s trust water right program, using banked water as mitigation for new water uses. The three counties anticipated that use of unmitigated exempt wells would continue to be more restricted in the state and proceeded with water bank development to proactively address this concern, along with addressing other future water needs in the basin. The recent ruling in Whatcom County v. Hirst only increases the need for local jurisdictions to be directly involved with proactive water resource management.

Eastern Washington's Water Future in the News

The just released Columbia River Basin Long-Term Water Supply and Demand Forecast is gathering the attention of the news media. National Public Radio interviewed Aspect’s Dan Haller as part of their coverage. For the last two years, Aspect has worked on the research team alongside Washington State University and the University of Utah to forecast how regional environmental and economic conditions will affect water supply and demand through 2035. The report is now open for public comment through July 20. The final version will go the state legislature in the fall to help steer sound water goals and policy for eastern Washington.

Hear and read the interview here: More Water For Eastern Washington, But Not When Its Needed Most