Mountains of Water

A community comes together to unearth the source behind the disappearance of
thousands of gallons of fresh, pure, clean mountain water.

Situated on the west bank of Hood Canal and nestled against the majestic
Olympic Mountains of Washington state, Seamount Estates is an idyllic
vacation retreat and home to a population of about 50 retirees and seasonal
residents. The community boasts a 200-foot beach complete with a boat launch
offering mariners passage to the nearby Puget Sound. With alpine summits in the
distance, holders of a diversity of moderately sized homes, small houses, cabins,
and trailers enjoy rural tranquility in a park-like setting. Even owners of vacant
lots here maintain them to retain prized beachfront privileges. When Herbert
“Skip” Rand, circuit rider for the Rural Community Assistance Corp. (RCAC), first
arrived in early summer 2005 to assist the new water board on management
and budget issues, Seamount Estates represented a picture perfect coastal

But something was missing. Thousands of gallons of fresh, pure, clean mountain
water had vanished. By night and by day, nobody knew when it had begun or how
much was lost. By the time Rand arrived, the community’s investigation had begun
to zero in on an explanation.

“They had high electrical costs and suspected a leak,” says Rand. “While
monitoring their source meters, they saw progressive increases in water
consumption over the course of the year.”

The local community has one of the more unique, pure sources of fresh drinking
water in the nation, unknown quantities of which were disappearing into the ground.

Clean Water for Free
The water distribution system for Seamount Estates is privately owned and
operated by residents, and as Roger Ricker says, “The community would like to
keep it that way.”

“We’ve got very good water here and very good water rights that we don’t
want to lose,” says Ricker, a Seamount resident and treasurer of the water
board, the organization that manages and operates the water system. He says
the water is sourced from Fulton Creek, which flows year-round from the Olympic
Mountains. “We’ve got two good wells, and we’re only using about 10% of our
water rights.”

Ricker says the water quality here is so good that it would be hard to find anyone
who would be willing to pay for water, be it from a tap or a bottle. He adds,
however, that water service to Seamount residents is not exactly free of charge.
“We charge $200 per year in dues, which gives members unlimited water
usage—along with beach rights.”

The system the water board operates is a Group A drinking water system
comprising 151 connections, of which about 60 are active. The original piping
infrastructure dates back to the early ’70s, and the system is governed by
Washington State Department of Health (DOH) rules for Class A groundwater.

Healthy Set of Goal
According to Rand, at the time of his initial visit to Seamount, the Washington
State DOH was developing three major guidelines mandating water efficiency
for small water systems. These guidelines included reporting, public notification,
and programs to ensure wise use of water.

In anticipation of these new state guidelines, and with the realization the
water distribution system was not performing at peak efficiency, the citizens
and water board of Seamount began monitoring the system’s performance.

Read on

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