Monthly Archives: August 2015


Meet Frank James MD – CELP Board Member

Frank James MD (and friend)

Frank James MD (and friend)

Frank is the Health Officer for San Juan County and Health Officer for the Nooksack Indian Nation, and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Frank also serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute for Village Studies and Responsible Development and on the organizing committee for Whatcom Docs, a group of physicians bringing scientific evaluation to the health impacts of the proposed coal port and coal trains in Bellingham. Frank is the former Executive Director of Honor Works, and a co-founder of the CEDAR Project on the Lummi Nation, a community organization that builds leadership in young people.

Frank has been on the Board of Directors for CELP since 2014. We asked Frank some questions about how he became passionate about protecting Washington’s waters, and how he became involved with CELP. Here are a few of his answers:

What’s your first memory of being aware of water conservation, or conservation in general?

My great grandmother said fairly often,  “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

How did you first become aware of/involved with CELP?

I have worked for and with NW Tribes for over 25 years, CELP is well known to the Tribes. John Osborn [current CELP Board Chair] and I went to medical school together even longer ago.

What do you find most challenging about protecting water in Washington?

Water quality is something most people can relate to but water quantity is something that most people have thought we would never have a problem with in Washington State. Getting people to take the issue seriously has been a real challenge.

What do you wish other people knew about CELP or water conservation generally?

The historic role of CELP in many of the landmark water decisions is well known in some circles but the general public is unaware of the role CELP has played in critical water litigation over several decades.

If you could change one thing about CELP, what would it be?

It’s profile in the public eye.

What’s your personal philosophy on what should be done about water conservation?

Knowing that my personal effort to conserve is wonderful and it feels good but real impacts at the societal level require larger actions to change policy.

Why are you supporting CELP as opposed to other groups working on water conservation?

Many people work on water quality issues but very, very few on water quantity.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming involved with CELP?

It is very exciting to be part of an organization that is taking on one of the most important areas for the future of our community. CELP has a strong reputation for being effective and in taking on the most important issues facing our region in the area of water policy.

What’s it like to be a board member for CELP?

The staff and other board members are all very busy people but take the time to listen to the public and to take meaningful action in the best interests of the larger community. It is easy to be proud of the historic tradition of effective action over many years. The challenge is to keep that tradition up at the level it has been due to the truly outstanding efforts of prior board members.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CELP?

I do research, teach and practice medicine. I do research with the Nooksack Indian Tribe on the role of culture in keeping tribal members healthy, I am on the faculty of both University of Washington School of Public Health and Yang Ming University Taipei, Taiwan in Global Health and I practice at Travel Medicine Northwest helping to prepare people to travel abroad safely and caring for returning travelers that have become ill abroad.


H2KNOW and City of Spokane join together to encourage Water Conservation

High water use impacts Spokane River flows

H2KNOW: Our Spokane River is Low and the City of Spokane’s Slow the Flow Program joined together today to strongly encourage people to conserve water during our drought, record-high heat, and a drastically reduced river flow.

“We are pleased to join the City of Spokane in strengthening awareness of aquifer-river relationships and an increased call for water conservation,” said John Roskelley, H2KNOW co-organizer, CELP board member and former Spokane County Commissioner. “During this drought summer, governments, businesses, and people are all pumping high levels of water and this is robbing our river of its water.  Such extremely low river flows have negative impacts on small businesses, fish and wildlife, family recreation, and the overall identity of our community.  ‘Near nature, near perfect’ is more than a slogan, it reflects a deeper relationship with our river.”

Compare the Spokane River at 2500 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the photo on the left, taken July 2014, to 630 cfs in the photo on the right, taken this August from the same spot in Riverside State Park.

Spokane River at 2500 cfs  - Photo by John Osborn, taken at Riverside State Park

Spokane River at 2500 cfs – Photo by John Osborn

Spokane River at 630 cfs - Photo by John Osborn taken at Riverside State Park

Spokane River at 630 cfs – Photo by John Osborn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Romero, the City’s Utilities Division Director, said, “Just as the City has taken a strong regional leadership role on improving the water quality in the Spokane River through the development of its Integrated Clean Water Plan and plans for more than $300 million in river investments, we want to enhance our leadership role on water conservation efforts and protecting our river flows.  We are proud that our citizens already are responding positively.  Following record water pumping in June when temperatures were unusually high, our pumping numbers for July are pretty average when looking at the last 25 years of data.  And, today, we ask citizens to continue their work to ‘Slow the Flow.’”

Today’s water conservation message builds on approval by the City Council on August 10th of a request to make the position of Education Coordinator for the City’s Water Department full time.  As noted by Council Member Jon Snyder:

… We have to have a systemic approach that not only addresses consumer use and how people use water but a whole planning and a whole vision for our water future here in the Spokane area.

… I’m also looking forward for chances for this Council to weigh in on the Water Plan and other Water Policy so we can make some good decisions that will last years into the future.  (view statement)

The City and H2KNOW urge Spokane water customers to keep in mind the Spokane River and voluntarily reduce their water use by 10 to 20 percent.  This can be achieved through the following and other simple solutions around the home:

  • Reduce lawn watering to only twice per week. Don’t water on windy days, and turn off your sprinklers when it rains.
  • Water your lawn and garden only at night or in the very early morning; water evaporates in the hot mid-day.
  • Take shorter showers and install a low-flow showerhead.

Many other money-saving, easy actions can be found at the www.H2KNOW.info as well as at the city’s www.waterstewardship.org.

Citizens should also think long-term.  Weather forecasters already are predicting that the Pacific Northwest may have another low-snow winter and long, hot summer in 2016.   Install low-flow toilets, change your landscaping to remove thirsty lawns and install water-efficient native plants.

H2KNOW is a community awareness campaign is supported by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club, and the Columbia Institute for Water Policy.

Follow H2KNOW on Facebook and check out our website.

Follow Spokane’s Slow the Flow campaign.


Water Use at Historic High, Spokane River near Historic Low

Update and correction from the H2KNOW campaign:  the data for this blog post were from the USGS website, and have subsequently been revised upward to flows around 700cfs.  “Provisional Data Subject to Revision” is noted on the river gage website.  Current flows of around 700 are extremely low, while not yet at historic lows. Despite low flows, water use remains high.

H2KNOWriverlow-1

Spokane River flows dropping

 Plea for community to conserve water to help struggling river

Today the H2KNOW community water-conservation campaign sounded the alarm that water levels in the Spokane River dropped below 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the first time this summer.   Meanwhile, City of Spokane water use is at an all-time high: 3.8 billion gallons in July, or 122 million gallons of water each day.

“Our Spokane River is in trouble, and we must conserve water,” said John Osborn with the new H2KNOW water conservation campaign. “We must use water wisely to help our struggling river.”

Spokane River at Riverside State Park (from the suspension bridge at Bowl & Pitcher).  River flows were at 630cfs.  photo - John Osborn

Spokane River at Riverside State Park (looking upstream from the suspension bridge at Bowl & Pitcher). On August 8, 2015, river flows were at 630 cfs. photo – John Osborn

Water supply is provided by groundwater from the Spokane-Rathdrum Aquifer. The Aquifer also supplies water to the Spokane River. Increased groundwater pumping for human use directly depletes flow in the River.

Hot temperatures approaching 100 degrees are forecast again for much of this week. Drought combined with excessive water use by the 500,000 people living in this basin are causing historic extremes in low flow for the Spokane River. The lowest flows ever recorded are in the mid-400 cfs range, and we have begun to break the record according to the USGS Spokane River gage. Low flows harm fish, wildlife, recreational opportunities, and businesses that depend on the river.

“Conserve water for the river’s sake,” said Tom Soeldner, a retired Lutheran pastor who co-chair’s Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group. “There is a void in leadership from our government on water conservation during this drought. We as individuals must take responsibility for protecting our Spokane River.”

Five actions that people can take to conserve water and help our Spokane River:

  1. Reduce outdoor watering (especially stop overwatering grass)
  2. Fix broken or clogged pipes and sprinkler heads
  3. Fix leaks in all plumbing fixtures
  4. Install water-efficient devices (such as low flow toilets and shower heads)
  5. Replace your lawn with low-water plants

Comparing flows now with prior years underscores the terrible condition of the river and the need for people to act.   One year ago, in 2014, lowest flows were about 900cfs.   When Spokane was a young city in the 1890s, flows ranged from 1500-2000cfs in August. River flows are monitored at a stream gage near the Monroe Street dam, the oldest continuous gage in Washington State.

During the first week of August, the H2KNOW campaign launched a regional public education effort to help people understand the connection between aquifer and river, and the need to conserve water during this drought summer and beyond.   For more on the water conservation campaign and what people can do, visit www.H2KNOW.info

 

 


“H2know: Our Spokane River Is Low!”

H2KNOWriverlow

Water Awareness Campaign launched in Spokane this week

kids news conference JO photo 8-5-2015

During this summer of drought, river advocates are highlighting the message: conserve water to protect our Spokane River. (CELP photo)

This morning, where the aquifer springs bubble up and flow into the Spokane River near the TJ Meenach bridge, a concerned group of Spokane citizens launched, “H2KNOW: Our Spokane River is Low!” a public awareness campaign that highlights the critical relationship between human water usage, the aquifer and the flow of the Spokane River.

Campaign co-organizer John Osborn, a Spokane physician and conservationist, as well as CELP’s Board Chair, reached down and scooped up aquifer-spring water and said, “Nearly every bucket of this aquifer water we use is a bucket that doesn’t flow into the Spokane River.” Pouring the water back into the River, Osborn encouraged, “While we should conserve water anyway, we have a very special reason to use water wisely: when we pump our aquifer, we rob our river. That’s why we created H2KNOW public awareness campaign to help save our Spokane River.”

Spokane citizens are encouraged to visit www.H2KNOW.info for more information and tips on how conserve water in and around our homes, especially this summer.

H2KNOW aims to educate and motivate Spokane-area citizens about the low river flow that has been brought on very early this summer due to low snow and record-high heat. Osborn noted that water levels are approaching record lows, and it’s only early August.

John Roskelley, former Spokane County Commissioner and clean water advocate (and CELP board member) spoke to the economic and recreational loss that is tied to the River’s low flow, “The Spokane River is what our quality of life is all about,” he said. “This is not just about today or tomorrow, but about this community’s future. The river drives a great deal of our economy from tourism to industry and impacts small businesses and home owners. Near nature; near perfect is not just a slogan, but a way of life here and the river has a great deal to do with it.”

billboard JO photo 8-5-2015

In Spokane, seven billboards were posted this week as part of a public education campaign to conserve water to help the Spokane River at extremely low flows. (CELP photo)

“H2KNOW” billboards appeared around Spokane beginning Friday, August 1st. One version reads, “Know the Flow – River Running Low,” with a tied-off garden hose and dry rock in the river. Another features a snake-like coiled garden hose and a great blue heron with the question, “Is Your Hose Draining Her Habitat?”

Tina Wynecoop, whose husband is a Spokane Tribe of Indians elder, noted the tremendous efforts to clean up Spokane River pollution and the need now to focus on protecting the river’s flow. “The river is gasping for water. Especially during this year of drought, we need to protect the aquifer that gives the river its ‘breath.’”

With the H2KNOW campaign officially launched, organizers are now actively forming alliances with stakeholders, scheduling speaking opportunities, and most of all, will continue working with a person-to-person approach to increasing public awareness.  John Osborn wrapped up today’s campaign kickoff event by calling on all Spokane-area citizens to “think about our Spokane River and wildlife who depend on these waters every time you turn on a water faucet.”

The campaign is supported by Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, and the Columbia Institute for Water Policy.