Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, April 15, 2016, Page 12, Image 12

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

April 15, 2016
Other water uses
CONTINUED from Page 1
“It has helped us buck the
conventional wisdom,” said
Heather Cooley, water pro-
gram director for the Pacif-
ic Institute, a
think tank that
focuses on wa-
ter issues.
1950 and 1980,
total withdraw-
als of surface
and groundwa-
ter were out-
pacing the nation’s population
growth, according to the U.S.
Geological Survey.
Water usage more than
doubled in that time, from
about 180 billion to 430 bil-
lion gallons per day, while
the number of U.S. residents
increased by about 50 percent.
The trend was clearly not
sustainable, but water con-
servation efforts successfully
changed that trajectory even
as the population continued to
“Ever since 1980, we’ve
really seen a decoupling” of
population growth and water
use, Cooley said.
Water usage has leveled
off or dropped in intervening
USGS surveys, falling 17 per-
cent to 354.3 billion gallons
per day by 2010, according
to the agency’s most recent
report. Meanwhile, the num-
ber of people in the U.S. has
increased by more than 35
“It’s a trend we see in com-
munities across the U.S. and
it’s driven largely by effi cien-
cy improvements,” said Cool-
ey. “We saw declines in every
single sector in 2010.”
E.J. Harris/EO Media Group
A center-pivot irrigation system operates on a fi eld of alfalfa and grass mix on April 7 east of Stanfi eld, Ore. New techniques help farmers
grow more crops using less water.
U.S. estimated water use, 1950-2010 *
While the U.S. population increased by more than a third since 1980, overall water use has gone
down, according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates.
Water use
Fresh water
U.S. population
(Millions of people)
Source: USGS
gravity systems in 2013, ac-
cording to the USDA’s latest
Irrigators who use sprin-
klers have also been switch-
ing to low-pressure systems
that generate larger droplets
than older, high-pressure
systems, further conserving
water, said Glenn Schaible, a
USDA economist who stud-
ies water resources.
“You get a very high evap-
oration rate with high-pres-
sure systems,” Schaible said,
adding that as droplets get
smaller, they’re more vulner-
able to turning into vapor.
Drip, trickle and similar
micro-irrigation systems, the
most water-preserving avail-
able, were used on roughly 5
million acres in 2013.
Because the high-effi cien-
cy systems are also more ex-
until farm groups in northwestern
Washington were angered by adver-
tisements on public buses last month
showing cows standing in an uniden-
tifi ed stream.
The agency didn’t distance itself
from What’s Upstream until April 5,
the same day that Republican U.S.
Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Jim
Inhofe of Oklahoma asked the Inspec-
tor General’s Offi ce to investigate.
The Inspector General’s Offi ce says
it will not confi rm or deny an inves-
Meanwhile, other lawmakers in the
past week have questioned EPA’s sup-
port for the ongoing campaign.
State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Fern-
Eugene, Medford, Roseburg
and Salem Districts, and the
Klamath Falls field office of
the Lakeview District. It re-
places plans that have been
in effect since 1995 under
the Northwest Forest Plan.
About 75 percent of the
2.5 million acres will be
managed as reserves for old-
er, more complex forests and
for fish, water, wildlife and
other “resource values,” ac-
cording to the BLM.
Of major concern to many
rural residents, the updated
plan increases the targeted
timber harvest level on BLM
land to 278 million board-
* Methodology may vary for some study periods with regard to rounding and geographic extent; some figures have been revised.
CONTINUED from Page 1
CONTINUED from Page 1
313 million:
Up 36.3%
from 1980
Biggest user
generation, which represents
about 45 percent of all U.S.
water usage, is responsible
for a large chunk of that wa-
ter savings.
Coal, nuclear and bio-
mass plants rely on water for
cooling and to produce steam
to turn the turbine blades in
their power plants. By recir-
culating water and making
other upgrades, the facilities
cut their water usage by more
than 23 percent in three de-
Irrigation, the nation’s
second-largest water user,
has also reduced its con-
sumption by 23 percent in
that time, from 150 billion to
115 billion gallons per day.
Gravity systems, such as
fl ood or furrow irrigation,
were once the predominant
forms of applying water in
U.S. agriculture. They were
overtaken in the 1990s by
more effi cient sprinklers, ac-
cording to USDA.
Nearly 35 million acres of
farmland were irrigated with
sprinklers compared to 21.5
million acres irrigated with
354.3 Bgal/d:
Down 18.5%
from 1980
(Billions of gallons/day)
Alan Kenaga/Capital Press
pensive, farmers must justify
them with greater revenues,
Schaible said. “It occurs
more in high-value crops
than elsewhere.”
Farmers benefi t econom-
ically from conservation
technology because they can
stretch their available water
to irrigate more acres, said
Molly Maupin, a hydrologist
for USGS.
Modernizing the convey-
ance of water has also helped
reduce water usage in agricul-
ture, she said. Lining canals
with an impermeable layer
impedes seepage, while re-
placing canals with pipes also
prevents evaporation.
“The losses in transit are
being minimized as much as
possible,” Maupin said.
Aside from getting more
effi cient at how water is ap-
dale, has written Dennis McLerran,
the EPA’s Northwest regional director,
asking for an explanation.
Ericksen represents northwestern
Washington, one of two regions in
the state with a large number of dair-
ies. Tribes and environmental groups
are lobbying lawmakers and state
agencies for stricter manure-handling
Ericksen told McLerran that the
What’s Upstream campaign appeared
to be directed at state policymakers,
without clearly identifying who’s pay-
ing for it.
“I urge EPA to improve its efforts
around transparency in the future, so
that I and other legislators will be fully
informed of the agency’s involvement
in campaigns that relate to issues that
may come before the state legisla-
ture,” Ericksen wrote.
feet annually. Since 1995,
the BLM has administered
the region with a goal of an-
nually harvesting 203 mil-
lion board-feet, Levy said.
The decline of timber
harvests on land managed by
the U.S. Forest Service and
BLM is widely blamed for
the widespread mill closures
and job losses in rural Ore-
gon. Reduced timber har-
vests also hurt county gov-
ernments, as they received
money from timber sales on
O&C land. Since 1989, tim-
ber harvests on federal land
in Oregon have declined by
90 percent.
Federal agencies manage
60 percent of the forestland
in Oregon, but provide only
12 percent of the annual tim-
plied, farmers make sure it
gets to their crops at the right
Many farmers still apply
water because “Dad irrigat-
ed that way” or based on the
calendar date, but fewer than
10 percent of irrigators use
more advanced tools such
as soil moisture sensors and
crop growth models, Schaible
“There’s still a lot of room
for improvement,” he said.
“That’s where it takes man-
agement skill and knowl-
With irrigation scheduling,
farmers fi ne-tune their appli-
cations of water based on its
availability in the soil and the
crop’s level of stress. The sys-
tem aims to optimize irriga-
tion without denting yields or
using excessive water.
Missouri Republican Vicky Hartz-
ler, a member of the U.S. House Agri-
culture Committee, seconded Roberts’
and Inhofe’s call for an investigation.
“This is seemingly a blatant viola-
tion of the law by an agency actively
trying to paint our farmers and pro-
ducers in a negative light to advance
its own regulatory agenda and expan-
sive land grabs,” she said in a written
The EPA had apparently spent
about $570,000 on the campaign
through the end of September, based
on a review of records by the Capital
Press. Neither the tribe nor EPA has
been able to confi rm or update how
much has been spent.
The Swinomish tribe is due to
submit another report on What’s Up-
stream spending and activities this
More irrigation
In some areas such as
Oregon’s Willamette Val-
ley, there’s a potential for
irrigating acreage that’s
currently under dryland
Only about 20 percent
of the region is currently
irrigated even though it
has great soils, said Mar-
garet Matter, water re-
source specialist for the
Oregon Department of Ag-
Producers of nursery
stock, stung by the im-
pacts of the recent housing
downturn, are diversifying
into other crops that re-
quire irrigation, she said.
Hazelnut growers who
are expanding their op-
erations or replacing old
orchards are also often
choosing to install irriga-
tion systems to boost yields,
Matter said.
“There’s certainly ev-
idence that irrigation de-
mand is increasing and will
increase in the future,” she
While it may be possible
to make more water avail-
able from multipurpose
flood control dams, farmers
will still be constrained by
their ability to recoup the
added expenses.
“It may be so far away
from any water source that
it may be cost-prohibitive to
build the conveyance sys-
tem,” Matter said.
Courtesy of Save Family Farming
A billboard near Bellingham, Wash., promotes a campaign funded by
the Environmental Protection Agency. The billboard and other campaign
elements have stayed in place, even though the EPA said a week ago the
campaign was a misuse of federal funds.
The proposed Resource Management Plan is at http://www.blm.
ber harvest, according to the
Oregon Forest Resources In-
The Portland-based indus-
try group American Forest
Resource Council said the
BLM had an opportunity to
present a “bold, strategic vi-
sion” of forest management
but instead developed a plan
that “regurgitates the failed
policies of the past.”
“If the past 20 years pro-
vide any indication, this ap-
proach is doomed to fail our
forests, wildlife and our com-
munities,” group President
“It allows for more pre-
cision,” said Cooley, noting
that competing uses and
scarcity drive growers to
adopt new technology. “A
lot of it comes down to the
cost of water.”
Water usage in agricul-
ture isn’t limited to irrigat-
ing crops.
Livestock consume 2 bil-
lion gallons per day, a level
that has largely remained
stable since 1980.
Increased sales of farmed
fish, on the other hand, has
been correlated with signifi-
cantly more water used in
Fish farms’ sales topped
$1.37 billion in 2013, which
is about 40 percent more
than 15 years earlier, ac-
cording to the USDA’s most
recent Census of Aquacul-
Aquaculture used 9.4 bil-
lion gallons a day in 2010,
more than quadruple the
amount used in 1985, when
USGS began tracking it as
an individual sector.
Residential and commer-
cial users who depend on
public supplies decreased
their consumption by 5 per-
cent from 2005 to 2010, to
42 billion gallons a day, but
previously increased their
usage by more than one-
third since 1980.
Domestic homes with
their own wells, which con-
sumed 3.6 billion gallons
per day in 2010, only used
slightly more water than 30
years earlier.
Even with a swelling
population, there’s an op-
portunity to curtail domes-
tic and commercial water
use with more efficient ap-
pliances that also conserve
money, said the Pacific In-
stitute’s Cooley.
“If you look at those sav-
ings, it’s actually more than
enough to cover the higher
upfront cost,” she said.
Cities were historically
paved over to quickly steer
precipitation into stormwa-
ter drains, minimizing the
risk of flooding, Cooley
Now, more buildings are
diverting water from gutters
into cisterns or allowing
it to seep into “bioswales”
to recharge groundwater,
she said. “Communities are
starting to realize this is a
source of supply.”
Urban water users are
thus beginning to emulate
the industrial users, which
recycle water.
Industrial users con-
sume 16 billion gallons a
day, down from about 45
billion gallons a day in
Many companies found
an advantage in re-circulat-
ing water repeatedly, said
Maupin. Because they dis-
charge less, the cost of re-
moving pollutants to com-
ply with the Clean Water
Act is reduced.
“It benefits them to re-
use that water more and
more inside their facility,”
she said.
Travis Joseph said in a pre-
pared statement.
Nick Smith, executive
director of the pro-indus-
try group Healthy Forests,
Healthy Communities, said
the BLM “turned its back” on
rural residents.
“This is yet another exam-
ple of an out of touch federal
government, fueling the kind
of rural frustration that gar-
nered national attention after
the Malheur standoff.”
Conservation groups see
other problems.
Cascadia Wildlands, based
in Eugene, said the plan offers
“weakened stream buffers, in-
creased carbon emissions and
relaxed standards for salmon
and wildlife, all to increase
certainty for the logging in-
Executive Director Josh
Laughlin called it “unthink-
able” that the BLM would
reduce stream buffer zones,
where logging isn’t allowed,
by half.
Increased logging ignores
the recreation-based economy
in the state, the group said in a
prepared statement.
John Kober, executive di-
rector of Pacifi c Rivers, said
the BLM puts too much value
on “subsidizing” county gov-
ernments with logging reve-
“The fact is, our public
lands produce far more eco-
nomic and social value by
storing carbon, sustaining
fisheries, providing recre-
ational opportunities and
delivering clean drinking
water. Unfortunately, due
to rapacious logging of pri-
vate and state lands all of
the burden for conservation
is placed on federal lands,”
he said in a prepared state-
Levy, the BLM spokes-
woman, said the management
plan will be published April
15, which begins a 30-day
protest period. An agency
team will be appointed to re-
view the protests, and a fi nal
decision is expected this sum-