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Putting Water on the Table 

by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & s water naturally seeks its own level, water policy is seeking a regional political level, exemplified by today's (April 17) meeting at the Convention Center between the mayors of Spokane and Post Falls as well as government water specialists from Washington and Idaho.

The gist: How to manage the Spokane River and Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer -- valuable resources that span the state line.

Spokane, Kootenai and Bonner counties share the aquifer and each is experiencing population growth. A 2004 atlas estimated the aquifer provided sole-source drinking water for a little more than 500,000 people. Today, that figure is said to be just shy of 600,000.

Thanks in part to the long-standing perception that the aquifer is a mighty underground faucet, water use in Spokane County is twice the state average. (The average annual per capita water use in Washington is 114 gallons per day, compared to 217 in Spokane.)

A two-year study completed last May shows that -- despite the oft-repeated tout -- the aquifer is not inexhaustible.

Idaho is in the midst of a contentious process of adjudicating water rights, and Washington is said to be in the early stages of a similar effort. Officials in each state have said they wish to avoid a fight over the shared water source.

Today's four-hour session is, in fact, called a Regional Water Management Dialogue. It's open to the public and has Q-and-A opportunities as well as hors d'oeuvres and a no-host bar slated for a social hour afterward.

So it's think, then drink, you might say.

"We need water to prosper, and this bi-state effort will help ensure the economic health and vitality of our region into the future," Spokane Mayor Mary Verner says in a press release.

Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin, in the same press release, says, "Small, but important steps -- like Post Falls' decision to place restrictions on watering lawns during the hottest part of the day in the summer -- make a difference."
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