Washington State Sustainable Agriculture

The water quality of Washington state’s Puget Sound has been and continues to be degraded by pollution from factory farms called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Although there are approximately 1,200 CAFOs in the state, only 14 are required to operate with a permit to discharge pollution.

An adult dairy cow generates roughly 120 pounds of manure per day, or as much as 20-40 people. The waste generated at these facilities is stored in unlined lagoons and over-applied to farmland, causing grave environmental, public health, and economic problems. In Puget Sound, CAFO pollution has been linked to shellfish bed closures and ocean acidification, perhaps this region’s most imminent environmental and economic catastrophe. Already, acidification has wiped out billions of oyster larvae in the Puget Sound; has impacted pteropods, which are critical food for birds and fish, and poses risks for other important sea life, including red king crab and wild salmon.

We are working with our partners to get the Washington State Department of Ecology to alter the CAFO General Permit to require:

  • Universal coverage for all medium and large CAFOs;
  • Surface and groundwater monitoring; and
  • Best management practices such as lined lagoons and salmon stream buffers.

As part of our Washington CAFO permit work, WELC provides legal services to its clients/partners, which now include over 20 environmental organizations and tribal governments. WELC is working to broaden its base of partners/clients to include ecotourism organizations, shellfish growers, sustainable agricultural operations, health professionals, and additional Native American tribes.

View maps showing dairy and water pollution threats to Puget Sound:

Plus, check out this interactive map that shows water pollution in Puget Sound.