Water today — water for the next hundred years

Where does your water come from?

A private well? A municipal water supply? Whether the source is a river, reservoir, or aquifer, all Washington waters are touched by the state water law, codified in 1917.

Historical photo of man pulling on rope with giant hook. workers behind him near pipe, old houses in background.

Replacing a wooden water main on the Cedar River pipeline under Seattle’s Federal Avenue – 1957.

Stresses from population growth and increasing uncertainty from climate change will test the state’s ability to manage this precious, limited resource. How will we adapt? Do we have the technical and policy tools to meet the water security challenges ahead?

Today in Seattle, 200 people involved in water resources have convened to reflect on the past hundred years of the Washington Water Code, its implementation, and future water management. Washington’s 2017 American Water Rights Association state conference is titled: The 100 Year Anniversary of the Washington Water Code: Where We Came From and Where We’re Going.

Ecology is proud to be a conference sponsor and will display a series of informational, thought-provoking posters from our own 100 Years of Water Law web page.

Sessions will include:

  • Early water code history – The historic cultural significance of water from time-immemorial through early statehood through the Water Resources Act of 1971. 
  • Contemporary Water Code History – The recognition of competing needs, including protecting environmental quality and the interrelationship of surface and ground waters. Moderated by Ecology Water Resources Policy Manager Dave Christensen
  • Defining Future Risks – Cultivating the ability to respond to changes in water availability, water demand, population, and climate. 
  • Identifying Possible Solutions – Working with today’s code including conflict resolution, legal water right certainty, and storage and conveyance infrastructure solutions 
  • Legislative Change and Funding Needs – Needed changes and how they will be supported and funded in a time of shrinking state and federal budgets.

Conference attendees will represent professional associations, non-profits, universities/colleges, consulting firms, law firms, governmental agencies, tribes, and other entities interested in water resources.

Managing the state’s water is increasingly complex as the economy and our population continue to grow, and climate change stresses our natural resources, including threatened and endangered fish and wildlife populations.

The legislators who adopted Washington’s Water Code in 1917 could not have imagined the world we live in and the complex demands on our water supplies today. While we have better tools and modeling today, we cannot fully imagine what the next hundred years will bring.

Washington state and Ecology remain committed to working in partnership with communities to ensure clean, reliable water supplies for people and the natural environment for the next hundred years and beyond.

See how we’re addressing these issues for today and for Washington’s future.

See historic photos from the early 1800s to today on Ecology’s 100 Years of Water Law digital story map.