Blog  /  April 2017  /  America's Wet and Wild Frontier: Water Solutions in the Northwest

Blog Post Teaser

Region Seven is currently defined by the states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. The climate of the region varies considerably depending on where one is located in the region. The climates of Washington and Oregon shift notably from the Eastern to Western parts of the states. The westernmost portions of the states, predictably, have a marine climate; as they are situated along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Further inland is an outdoorsman’s fantasy, complete with several large mountain ranges, lush forests, vast lakes, and some of the United States’ most pristine natural landscapes.  Alaska is about as diverse as a single state can be, consisting of six regions that differ from oceanic in the Southeast, subarctic in the West, and all manner of variations in-between. Idaho’s climate is similar to that of the eastern parts of Washington and Oregon.

Although parts of Oregon and Washington faced drought during the 2015 calendar year it seems like they were out of the woods by 2016. However, it doesn’t seem to have discouraged them from implementing conservation-minded practices. Perhaps they learned a lesson from their neighbors further South, such as California, Nevada, and Arizona. One simple way to improve a community’s rate of water usage is advancements in metering infrastructure and leak detection practices. Which seems to be a distinctive focus for many municipalities and utilities in the region, reflected in the bidding opportunities. Most AMI/AMR meters are said to have a 20-year life expectancy, yet on average they are replaced every 8-10 years.  Most organizations have neither the budget or time for those kinds of replacements at such frequent intervals. Which drives them to look for new technology in the area. Not to mention “big data” in regards to the water industry is gaining traction at an increasing rate. Any affordable ways to effectively track and improve a region’s water usage habits are going to be attractive.

Another notable opportunity popping up in Region Seven is the request for Wetland Mitigation Banking Credits. This is a practice in which an organization or municipality restores, creates, or enhances an area wetland or natural environment with the intention of compensating for unavoidable impacts at another location being developed or to offset impacts from agriculture.  It’s positive to see a community attempting to preserve natural habitats, but also serves as a reminder of the reality that certain impacts are near-unavoidable.

Alaska saw a significant number of requests for dredging services at various ports, docks, and harbors in the state. This comes as no surprise as managing water access infrastructure in Alaska is no small feat, the state holds a large percentage of the country’s surface water. Dredging services are necessary for the yearly operations of the state’s water access infrastructure but increased dredging can lead to complications in the disposal of the dredged material. The practice has led to the increase of size in the disposal sites. Basic infrastructure projects are also a common theme throughout Alaska. Much of the state is sparsely populated and undeveloped, so it’s not uncommon to see projects relate to the design or installation of water and sewer mains in order to combat the water poverty experienced by some inhabitants.

While water scarcity, poverty, and contamination increase across the globe, it’s promising to see certain communities taking steps to combat these troubles through gradual implementation of better practices through willingness rather than force. However, it will be fascinating to see if these measures continue and increase along with the ever-looming question of how we can better preserve and protect our most precious resource. Furthermore, it is important that while we continue to develop our remaining wild spaces we consider the impacts of our actions.