This week the board heard an appeal by Pullman resident Scotty Cornelius and the Spokane-based Center for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP). They contend the state was wrong to allow WSU to pump 55 million gallons of water a year from the Grande Ronde Aquifer to sprinkle on the new Palouse Ridge Golf Club.
"It's an arrogant water grab," said Cornelius at a Monday news conference in Spokane.
The aquifer is the main source of drinking water for the Moscow-Pullman area. Cornelius worries that, as a property owner with a shallow well, he could lose his water supply if the aquifer level drops as a result of WSU's large withdrawals.
Cornelius and CELP attorney Rachael Osborn also believe the Department of Ecology is remiss in not making sure the results of WSU's actions won't lead to a permanent lowering of the aquifer. They say studies show that the aquifer level is falling by about a foot and a half a year.
"They're in the same situation as [Spokane and Kootenai counties were] with Cogentrix," says Osborn, referring to the decision by the state of Idaho in 2002 not to allow two energy companies to draw heavily from the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer to cool new gas-fired electric generation plants.
"They don't know how much water they have. They need to step up the research before knowing how much water they can allocate," says Osborn.
WSU officials say they've worked aggressively to conserve water all over campus and contend the golf course water draws won't "mine" the aquifer.
The golf course is due to open in the fall of 2008.