The real goal: Stop P
The Lake Whatcom Reservoir and watershed must be protected. Much has been done in recent years to protect our drinking-water supply (and the residents' health and pocketbooks), but not yet enough.
The County staff and others say they are doing their jobs well. I will agree that for the goal of "working towards" protection of the LW Reservoir, the County, City, LWWSD, and SVCA have done some good. Thank goodness.
But the real goal is not to do their jobs well, and the water quality keeps on going down every year. For the twin real goals of cleaning up the actual existing pollution, and of terminating the supply of new pollution into the water body, far too little has been done. Go look at the 21 Goals set in 1993 - 15 years ago! Terminating the supply is the best thing to do - quit doing more harm each day. That is what the TMDL requirement states - for every 100 pounds of P that now gets into the Reservoir, stop 75 pounds of it from getting in.
It is useful to look at the watershed lands in three categories:
- lands which will not be developed (Goal #2 of 21, thus, are little contributions of future pollution);
- lands which may be developed (thus, are future pollution contributors); and
- lands already developed (thus, are current pollution contributors).
Thank goodness for those lands blocked from development - the best status for perpetual protection, so long as they are not actually misused by illegal or harmful activities.
Clearly, for lands subject to future development, the best action is to not develop, but the counter-argument is "property rights". I find it useful to further segment these lands into two classes:
- parcels which have been in the same ownership for decades, evidently pending use by family descendents;
- parcels which have had recent ownership changes, evidently purchased for speculative development with profit as the motive.
The best action by far for these lands is donation to the public good, as has admirably and regularly been done by many community-minded citizens. They might get a tax write-off, and many other perhaps intangible benefits.
Spec-building for profit should not be permitted. Spec-investing is never a guaranteed financial operation - look at the stock market. We need a way to fairly compensate those owners by paying them the amount they paid for the purchase. And family-owned parcels may be bought at fair-market value, perhaps discounted by good-will decisions of the owners.
The third major category of watershed lands is those already developed. It is these lands which are the actual real problem - the real polluters. Here, specific wet-water actions are required, and these can be done voluntarily by the owners or required by the jurisdictions.
The best action by far is source-control, much of which is cheap and easy. First, stop bringing pollutants into the watershed (lists are widely available, phosphorus and toxins top the list). Second, stop allowing water to flow off your lands. Third, stop allowing pollutants that are already in the watershed from getting into the water flowing off your parcel. Change gardening and lawn practices. Hold back water on the property and put it into the soil and sub-soil. These are relatively simple actions which can be done by everyone.
A very poor action - ineffective and expensive - is building structures (boxes) with the intent to treat dirty water to make it clean. This applies to every one of the facilities installed in recent years, which do little good and are apparently expensive to install and maintain. Bad tax-payer policy. This is true world-wide, not just in Whatcom. There are polluted lakes and streams everywhere, and current scientific and engineering knowledge does not have an economical method of running creek-water (or piped water) through a box that can make it clean. Doesn't happen. Even a full-fledged water treatment plant might not do it - and look at the cost.
Learn what is polluting, and quit doing it. That's the real solution.