CELP has always been all about water scarcity: the great divide between water flows needed for rivers and aquifers versus allocation of water for municipal, irrigation and other important out-of-stream uses.  When climate scientists began predicting severe water supply impacts a few years ago, CELP and its supporters already understood the problems that result. 

Click on images to enlarge.

By over-allocating water rights, Washington (along with most other western states) is ruining many of our rivers, mining aquifers that will undermine economies, families and communities, and setting in motion water conflict and water crisis.  As evidence, look no further than endangered species listings for salmon and other fish populations, water quality impairment in hundreds of rivers around the Northwest, and more dams than just about any other place on the planet.   Look at the Odessa Subarea, where irrigated farming is going out of business due to overtapped aquifers.  Look at southern Idaho, where the Dept. of Water Resources issued an order shutting off water to 700 farms in May 2007.  

    Declining aquifer levels, 1935-2005
    Click on graph to enlarge

We tend to take these problems for granted – seems like they’ve been around so long now.  But many our rivers and aquifers are in serious trouble and we appear to lack both the will and a realistic plan to get to solutions.

Climate scientists tell us that our water supply problems will only worsen.  If this occurs, the risk is not just to ecosystems, but to communities and economies.  

Declining river flows, Spokane River.  Overpumping groundwater robs the river of its flow.  (John Osborn photo)

CELP supports the need for individuals and society at large to reduce our “carbon footprints.”  But, an equally important question is – how will we respond and adapt?  

At CELP, we believe it is time to reform western water law.  If we do face a future of rivers degraded beyond hope of recovery, and a world divided into Water Haves and Have-Nots, then it is time now to re-think how we go about allocating water.  The waste and inefficiency, environmental disregard, and inequities of the prior appropriation doctrine are long overdue for reconsideration.

It’s not too late.  

 Care about water?  
 Join CELP.


  Center for

  Environmental Law & Policy

Water Vision for the Future
  Our Water Programs

•   Restoring Rivers
•   Water Rights
•   Columbia Watershed
•   Governmental Affairs
•   Water Future

Sign-up for
action alerts

a member