CQ Roll Call 50 State Project:  Water in Washington's Top Five Most Pressing Issues in 2015

​Washington ranked water issues fourth in its list of legislative issues capturing the most attention in 2015. In May, the Governor declared a statewide drought emergency as a result of low snowpack, low river flows and irrigation water shortages, and the Washington Department of Agriculture has warned that drought conditions could result in more than $1 billion in crop losses this year. Washington’s most recent infrastructure report card gave drinking water systems a grade of C-, and the State estimates $9.5 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years and $5.3 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs over that period. The state’s smaller water systems face particularly serious problems, since they lack the customer base and financial wherewithal to support regular maintenance and upgrades. Walla Walla is just one example of an area with aging systems in critical need of repair. The Walla Walla systems are reportedly losing 33% of their water to pipe leaks, and their unfiltered surface supply does not meet current water quality standards.