In the State of Washington, water policy has been gridlocked between those who support additional permits for water withdrawals from the Columbia River and those who oppose such withdrawals because of their potential to harm imperiled salmon populations. Caught in the middle, the Washington Department of Ecology requested a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), sometimes called "The Supreme Court of Science." NAS found that new water withdrawals from the Columbia would pose risks to salmon during the summer months, when flows in the River may be relatively low and water temperatures relatively high. The NAS Report then recommended a new approach to Columbia River water allocation and management, including a regional, intergovernmental forum to consider water allocation and management in the Columbia Basin; water markets and conservation (rather than new permits) as the first option to supply water for new uses; tougher requirements to obtain new permits; and greater flexibility in water allocation and management. These recommendations 17ow logically from the Report's key scientific finding, but they are contrary to the western states traditional approach to new water rights. This Article reviews the NAS Columbia River study, examines its water policy implications, and assesses its possible effect on water policy in the western states.
Reed D. Benson,
The Supreme Court of Science Speaks on Water Rights: The National Academy of Sciences Columbia River Report and Its Water Policy Implications,
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