How Important Is Water?

OLYMPIA (August 2, 2005) ─ Think about it. Nothing is more important than water. You drink it every day. You bathe your children in it. Water quality is the foundation of salmon recovery efforts. Yet, nothing is so neglected.

The state’s water quality standards should be updated to fit the needs of society and the environment—at least annually. They’re just too important to disregard. But it has been a decade and a half since the standards have been comprehensively updated, and that is a tragedy in the making.

Diminished water quality is more than a nuisance; it’s a killer. Worldwide, millions of people and untold numbers of fish and wildlife die from water-borne diseases and impure water every year. Whether you’re talking viruses, bacteria, complex chemicals or heavy metals, we have many of the killer poisons in our own fresh and salt water back yards. And, sure enough, Pacific Northwest fish, wildlife and people do die as a result.

This state is thought of by many as pristine, almost a last bastion of wilderness. People love it. The irony is that they love it to death.

Wake up, people!

Every river is over-allocated with state-issued water permits, and the ground water is being sucked up without mercy, whether it’s legal or not. All of this relates directly to water quality challenges that come hand-in-hand with water quantity problems. At least in part, the old axiom is true—the solution to pollution is dilution. Our watersheds are being treated like toilets robbed of their ability to flush, and it’s time to put a stop to it.

We must get control of this situation and challenge ourselves, as a civilized species, to manage our remaining resources in a holistic manner, looking beyond the temporary profits of exploitation.

This problem cannot be ignored. Every time you take a drink it’s there to haunt you. But there are things you can do about it. Start at home. Conserve water, and choose biodegradable products. Limit your use of lawn fertilizers and repair your leaky engines. Just as important, get involved politically. Call or write to Governor Christine Gregoire and Ecology Director Jay Manning. They are trying to make a positive difference, but big time polluters and powerful lobbyists too often demonstrate that, frankly, they just don’t give a damn.

Good government officials need your support to stand up to such political pressures. Getting clean water is a challenge we must all achieve together. We just cannot afford to wait any longer to get water quality standards completed. The 15 years the state has already delayed in updating these standards is long enough.

To contact the Governor’s office, call (360) 753-8659. For DOE, call (360) 407-6000.

Billy Frank Jr. is the chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.


For more information, contact: Steve Robinson or Tony Meyer,(360) 438-1180