Outdoors

Whatcom Water Weeks

A resourceful guide to conservation

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

In late July, storms drenched Whatcom County and broke two rainfall records previously set in 1949 and 1987.

While the unexpected downpour caused some residents to grumble about the interruption to what had been a mostly idyllic summer, others—like me—gave thanks to the rain gods.

In fact, after just two days of heavy precipitation, the dried-out grass in my lawn had recovered much of its lustrous spring green, and the garden’s edible and ornamental plants were noticeably happier and healthier.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I often take it for granted that the rains will always return, and that there’ll always be enough water to go around for both plants and humans. But when the dry days of summer morph into the dry months of summer, I realize the resource isn’t infinite, and that conservation is still important—and vital.

Enter Whatcom Water Weeks, an annual event put on by the Whatcom Watershed Information Network (WWIN). The network of representatives from government agencies, businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, tribes and citizens have a mission to “support and improve watershed education, stewardship, information exchange and public involvement efforts in Whatcom County.”

For two weeks—Sat., Sept. 6 through Sat., Sept. 20—events designed to celebrate water and educate community members about its importance will fill the calendar. I’ll highlight a few of the events here, but be sure to peruse the organization’s website for a full listings of happenings, as activities are still being added.

With a theme this year of “Water, Food, and YOU!,” many of the Whatcom Water Weeks gatherings will focus on the oh-so-important connection between clean water and the production of foodstuffs—whether it’s crops, livestock, fisheries or forests.

“Without clean water, we stand to lose the local foods we enjoy, a large segment of our local economy and a way of life for many in our community,” organizers say. “Each of us plays a role in protecting our community’s future.”

In many cases, attendees can go straight to the source of the subjects up for discussion. For example, the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) will host Nooksack River Campfire Talks Sept. 6, 13 and 20 focusing on salmon and stream ecology.

While snacking on smoked salmon at the Nooksack River’s Douglas Fir Campground, those in attendance will learn more about what the organization does to ensure salmon continue to thrive in our corner of the world. NSEA will also host guided river walks Sept. 7 and 14 at the Horseshoe Bend Trailhead in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Also on the food front is an “OysterFest” taking place Sept. 6 at BelleWood Acres, Sustainable Connections’ annual Whatcom County Farm Tour Sept. 13, a tour at Chuckanut Brewery Sept. 13, a “Gardening Green” series beginning Sept. 13 at Bellingham Public Works, and more.

But that’s far from all. Additional events include animal feedings and discussions at the Marine Life Center; a City of Bellingham “Water Wanders” tour; a Salmon Habitat Bike Tour with members of Whatcom Land Trust; a Skookum Hatchery Open House, a “Bounty on the Beach!” guided exploration for tideland treasures in Birch Bay,  a rain barrel tour, an educational cruise with the Stewards of Drayton Harbor, a “Steward Safari” in downtown Bellingham, tours of the Bellingham Cold Storage facility and the Canyon Hydro Plant, a beach-cleaning gathering at Whirlwind Beach, showings of The Unknown Sea: A Voyage on the Salish Sea documentary at the Pickford Film Center and the Bellingham Yacht Club, the Bellingham Traverse, agricultural buffer walks and a number of water-related storytelling events.

Whether you choose to attend one Whatcom Water Weeks event or plan to schedule your life according to its copious calendar, there’s no doubt that you’ll have a better understanding of the resource by the time the events draw to a close. By then, you might just be wishing for the rain to come back, already.

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