Washington State Agency Seeks Comment On Water Conservation Rules For Utilities

This year's dry winter, low snow pack and drought emergency declaration are driving home the need to improve water conservation around the state, officials said. The state Department of Health is seeking public comment on new rules that will require water utilities throughout Washington to take additional steps to conserve water.

"There is only so much water available, even when we don't have a drought emergency" said Denise Clifford, director of the Office of Drinking Water. "We need to use water wisely for the benefit of Washington's families, businesses, farms, and fish."

Many utilities already have water conservation programs in place. The 2003 Legislature directed the Department of Health to develop regulations to assure that utilities use water efficiently and to educate customers about wise water-use.

Utilities, local governments, environmental groups, business groups, state agencies and utility customers have worked together during the past year to develop recommendations and options for the agency to consider.

"Working with these groups, we've done our best to develop a fair, workable proposal," said Clifford. "Now we need to hear what others think of the draft rule."

The new rules will primarily affect community water suppliers serving 15 or more connections. Under the proposed rules, water utilities would need to:

  • Assure that their water system leakage remains at or below 10 percent.
  • Set conservation goals in a public forum.
  • Report on progress toward meeting their goals.
  • Develop and maintain plans to show how they will use water efficiently.

The 2003 Municipal Water Law directed the Department of Health to adopt a water use efficiency rule by December 2005. After this informal comment period, the agency will incorporate changes and submit the proposed rule for formal public review, including hearings, this fall.

Comments on this initial draft are needed by July 15. The draft rules are available on the Web: (http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/dw/municipal_water/municipal_water_law.htm).

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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