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Yakima River Basin

Yakima Basin Current Activities

This page aggregates current and historical information relating to Yakima River basin water management, water right changes and transfers, trust water right acquisition and management, and water banking.

Drought Response Activity

2015 Drought Response

2015 Update - Water Buying for Camps and Cabin Owner’s in the Yakima Basin

Since last summer we have been focusing on American River cabin tracts, and together with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), have been evaluating potential impacts to Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed species, including Bull Trout, Steelhead, and Spring Chinook Salmon.  This analysis is now complete and is scheduled to be presented to the basin stakeholders at the Water Transfer Working Group (WTWG) next month.  Pending a “thumbs up” from the WTWG, Ecology can begin to actively issue new water right and/or mitigation contracts to American River cabin tracts.

Upper Kittitas Groundwater Study - July 17, 2014  The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5119 titled Hydrogeologic Framework and Groundwater/Surface-Water Interactions of the Upper Yakima River Basin, Kittitas County, Central Washington by Andrew S. Gendaszek, D. Matthew Ely, Stephen R. Hinkle, Sue C. Kahle, and Wendy B. Welch.

This report describes a major study of the western Kittitas County groundwater-flow system to provide current, complete scientific information for making good decisions about managing this important resource.  This report was prepared in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Ecology and Kittitas County

Ecology, Kittitas County  sign groundwater management agreement

Ecology Director Maia Bellon has signed the Kittitas County Settlement Agreement that establishes conditions on new uses of groundwater in Lower Kittitas County.  The agreement helps ensure water  resources are protected  in the Yakima Basin when new land use decisions are made in Kittitas County.  It is protective of senior water rights and stream flows while providing options for new development.  The agreement was negotiated in response to the state Supreme Court’s decision in 2011 upholding a finding of the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board that Kittitas County’s Comprehensive Plan was inadequate to protect the quantity and quality of water in rural areas of the county.  See GMA Compliance on Water/Land Uses – 2014 for more information on the phases of the settlement agreement and the mitigation requirements for new water use.

Yakima River Basin Water Exchanges - Includes Upper Kittitas, Lower Kittitas, Central Yakima and Lower Yakima Basins

A "Water Exchange" is a tool for providing the mechanism to make water available through mitigation.  Water banking is a way to use the market to make water available for new uses, such as increasing stream flows and providing water for development.  Although banking approaches may differ, the common goal is to move water to where it is needed most.  There are seven water banks in the Upper Kittitas Water Exchange five water banks in the Lower Kittitas Water Exchange, and one water bank in the Central and Lower Yakima Water Exchange that you can use to find water for your needs. 

Mitigation that effectively offsets the impact to the Yakima River of consumptively using groundwater ensures that the new groundwater user has the ability to continue his or her use of water even if all water rights after May 10, 1905 are completely curtailed.  Although mitigation is not required by a rule like the Upper Kittitas Groundwater Rule, water right permits authorizing new uses of groundwater have not been approved by Ecology, unless the impacts were mitigated, since the early 1990s.

Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan

The Yakima Basin Integrated Water Management Plan, built on cooperation and collaboration among water users, lays the groundwork for stable water supplies decades into the future.  The alternative to moving the plan forward is contentious and costly legal battles over water that will leave many losers among water users in the basin.

Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan - March 2, 2012 - Final Programmatic EIS Released Today, Ecology and the US Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) released the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan (Plan).  The Final PEIS evaluates two alternatives to meet the water supply and ecosystem restoration needs in the Yakima River Basin: a "No Action Alternative" and the "Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan Alternative." The Integrated Plan Alternative is identified as the Preferred Alternative.

Legislative support for the plan will help ensure that:

  • Communities in the Yakima Basin will have the water they need to support population growth and prosperity.
  • Farmers will have water for healthy and expanding operations.
  • Fish populations will thrive as habitat, fish passage and stream flows are restored.

In the news

  • Water banks could fuel rural growth by David Lester, Yakima Herald-Republic December 19, 2012 (link unavailable at source 05/21/2015)

Pending water right applications in subbasins of the Yakima River Basin

Ecology is offering five options for application processing:

  • Mitigate – provide a plan to offset the impacts of your proposed use on the Yakima River and/or nearby tributary creeks.
  • On-hold - choose to place your application on-hold while you pursue mitigation.
  • Process your existing application as is.
  • Assign your application to another person.
  • Withdraw your application and remove it from the list of pending applications.

In the news

Yakima River Basin Groundwater Study October 2011 - Final USGS report on Yakima Basin groundwater

Columbia River Basin 2011 Long Term Water Supply and Demand Forecast

Water Transfer Working Group - The Water Transfer Working Group (WTWG) is a voluntary team of agencies and water users that meet to provide technical review of proposed water right transfers in the Yakima basin.  The WTWG process guides applicants to those types of water right changes and transfers that can quickly and easily gain approval from the state.  Speed, certainty and convenience are important factors for drought year water right transfers. 

Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project (YRBWEP)  Ecology, the US Bureau of Reclamation, other federal and state agencies, tribes, local governments, environmental organizations, and water users are working together to address water supply issues in the Yakima River Basin. The Office of Columbia River is initiating preparation of a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan. To meet the basin’s water needs, the Integrated Plan’s seven elements include: reservoir fish passage; structural and operational changes to existing facilities; surface water storage; groundwater storage; habitat/watershed protection and enhancement; enhanced water conservation; and encouraging water marketing.

Yakima River Basin Surface Water Adjudication - Draft schedule of rights, court documents list, monthly notice/court calendar

  • Supreme Court No. 86211-7  - Supreme Court issued its decision in the Acquavella V case.- March 07, 2013
  • Landmark Yakima water rights case nears end  - Landmark Yakima water rights case nears end Yakima Herald Republic Posted on March 7, 2013  (link unavailable at source 05/21/2015)

Manastash Project - Manastash Project, Phase I Manastash Creek is an important Yakima River tributary, which drains a 100-square mile watershed in Kittitas County lying west of Ellensburg, Washington.  Approximately 30 miles of potential high-quality salmonid habitat remains in the upper portions of the watershed, which lie primarily within the Wenatchee National Forest.

Bureau of Reclamation-  Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study Upper Columbia Area Office
In May 2003 the Bureau of Reclamation initiated the Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study to examine the feasibility and acceptability of storage augmentation in the Yakima River basin.

Yakima River Basin Watershed Management Planning - Lower/Upper Yakima & Naches (WRIA 37/38/39)

Additional Information

Yakima River Tributary Reverse Water Right Auction - 2008 Archive
The Washington Department of Ecology is seeking to buy or lease confirmed water rights in tributary streams in the Yakima River basin, beginning with the 2008 irrigation season.  The reverse water-right auction program is part of Ecology’s efforts to enhance stream and tributary flows in the Yakima Basin.

Attorney General Opinion (AGO) regarding the groundwater exemption
On September 21, 2009, the state Attorney General's Office issued a formal opinion regarding the interpretation of statutes exempting certain withdrawals of groundwater from permitting requirements, and authorizing the Department of Ecology to withdraw waters from appropriation.


YAKIMA RIVER BASIN WATER EXCHANGES - Includes Upper Kittitas, Lower Kittitas, Central Yakima and Lower Yakima Basins


01/29/2009 Contract

2008 Memorandum of Agreement - among the Bureau of Reclamation and Ecology

1999 Memorandum of Agreement among the Yakima Nation, Bureau of Reclamation and Ecology

2008 Report to the Legislature


Yakima River Basin Metering and Reporting