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 Yakima River Basin Emergency Drought
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
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
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
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
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
- Process your existing application as is.
- Assign your application to another person.
- Withdraw your application and remove it from the list of pending
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
- 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, 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
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)
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
regarding the interpretation of statutes exempting certain
withdrawals of groundwater from permitting requirements, and
authorizing the Department of Ecology to withdraw waters from