Water Matters: April showers bring … a plan

Water Matters: April showers bring … a plan

by ANN SOULE,  Sequim Gazette Columnist 

Apr 20, 2016 at 10:37AM

With the adoption of a stormwater plan last Monday, Sequim joins the ranks of officially water-conscious Western cities. 

Like recent efforts in our region, Sequim’s plan lays the groundwork for utilizing stormwater as a resource, integrating it with reclaimed water and other sources to fulfill municipal needs. 

Cities such as Tucson and Los Angeles were early adopters of methods to make good use of stormwater, for obvious reasons. 

For example, Los Angeles has a new plan called “One Water LA 2040,” which commits dozens of municipalities, wastewater and stormwater districts to use “urban acupuncture” — visualize pinpricks in the ground — and other methods to infiltrate treated, recycled water into the aquifer system. 

Two weeks ago I traveled to Los Angeles with my daughter’s SHS choir and eight other chaperones to a performance festival held at Disneyland. As our plane approached LAX, I scanned the industrial concrete jungle below and couldn’t find a single tree, much less a patch of native ground. 

I couldn’t help thinking that pinpricks is the right analogy for the hundreds of thousands of storm drains across the region that provide a way to conserve precious rainwater underground, in keeping with the 2040 plan. 

My weekend job as a chaperone was delightful for the most part. We saw sunshine, sun glasses, sunscreen — and incredible choral entertainment for our first day. Then we had two days at Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom: where everyone should be “in the moment” like the energetic teenagers we were charged with. 

As a chaperone, it wasn’t always possible to be “in the moment,” with kids being kids. When I wasn’t tending teenagers, I was either grabbing some moments for myself on the Matterhorn, California Screamin’ and other roller coasters or I was having grown-up fun as a hydrologist and stormwater manager wondering about all the water … Is the moat in It’s a Small World recycled wastewater? Are the splashes on the Splash Mountain ride chlorinated? 

Exactly how far underground are we in the Pirates of the Caribbean’s grotto after the second waterfall and how to they keep it from flooding down here? 

Loren Eiseley said, “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” Although he wasn’t referring to Disneyland, those “imagineers” (civil engineers and architects working for Disney) do amazing things. 

In California, newspapers these days cover a story about water on almost every page. Voters recently passed a $7 billion bond measure by 67 percent to pay for infiltration facilities and other strategies designed to avoid disaster with continuing drought. 

You can bet their plans include investments in treating runoff and wastewater for storage and re-use. 

Even yet, the cost of clean water probably is less than cable service. 

Home in Sequim, our new plan is a small step — but it’s a giant leap for water. Happy Earth Day! (And Happy Volunteer Appreciation Month, too!)

Geek Moment/Breaking News

Current snow depth at the Dungeness SNOTEL site on April 15 = 0 inches

Snow-water-equivalent = 0 inches (Sudden drop from 8.5 inches to zero in two weeks is not uncommon at this site, but it’s three weeks sooner than on average)

(Dungeness SNOTEL site, elev. 4,010 ft.) 

 

Cumulative rainfall in Sequim for the water year (starting Oct. 1) = 17.2 inches (far above average)

(Sequim Water Reclamation Facility, elev. 45 ft.)

 

Ann Soule is a licensed hydrogeologist working on water quality and quantity concerns in the Dungeness watershed since 1990. She now works for the City of Sequim. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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