For the past decade, water quality and quantity issues have progressed in the Spokane area. During this time, residents have heard and read news stories on how phosphorus is a major water quality concern for local lakes, rivers and streams. Other popular news is how the Washington Department of Ecology has prepared a water quality cleanup plan (called a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL) to address the Spokane River’s dissolved oxygen problem. The TMDL would establish implementation measures to achieve significant reductions in phosphorus loading to the river. Low oxygen levels in the river are unhealthy for fish and other organisms that live in the river and also cause unpleasing algae blooms in Lake Spokane. The Spokane River is one of the most prominent features in Spokane. Protecting the river is of great economic importance to the people of Spokane and the surrounding area as its recreational and aesthetic values encourage tourism and create a very desirable place to live. Below the river lies the Spokane Valley – Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for nearly 500,000 people in the region. Recent news has circulated on the development of a Rathdrum-Spokane Aquifer study, a study investigating the characteristics of the aquifer. A concerted effort was undertaken by Washington, Idaho and the United States Geological Survey to determine quantity, quality, and recharge capability of the aquifer. Refining the knowledge of the Rathdrum-Spokane Aquifer through a collaborative study will create a common understanding of the system, which is essential to managing this valuable resource as our soul source of drinking water.

Sources of pollution to our waterbodies include point sources. However, these point sources are not the only problem. A significant amount of pollution, including phosphorus, to our water bodies are also caused by small “nonpoint” sources from households, businesses, and community organizations. Nonpoint source pollution is the Nation’s leading source of water quality degradation, not just in our local watersheds.

Educating and raising the awareness about how individuals can participate in protecting their local waterbodies will become a key component. To address this, Washington State Department of Ecology and the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District collaborated with community stakeholders on an education and awareness campaign that targets individual residents in the Spokane River, Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, and Liberty Lake watersheds. A recent survey of residents in Spokane area indicated that participants nearly universally agreed that we owe it to future generations to protect rivers and streams.

This educational campaign is called the “Watershed Pledge”, it is designed to engage residents in changing their behaviors to reflect good water stewardship. This project, modeled after the Whatcom Watershed Pledge, will provided citizens with information about how they can protect and improve rivers, lakes, streams, and groundwater. The pledge takes residents through a checklist of practices that can be adopted in the home to prevent pollution and allows them to take pride that they are doing their part to protect the river, aquifer, and lake.

This is a new and innovative project for the Spokane region even though it has been implemented in other parts of the state. Since this type of project has not been attempted before in this area, a pilot project was initiated at Liberty Lake. The Watershed Citizen Advisory Committee was instrumental in the development of a pilot project campaign that would use their community as an indication for the viability of a pledge project in Spokane County.

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