Water Conservation in the Columbia River Basin


Irrigation Sprinklers

In arid climates like that found in the Columbia Basin, efficient water use is more than a lofty goal, it’s a necessity. Conservation plays a key role in the Office of Columbia River’s efforts to increase the region’s water supply. OCR has made a major commitment to fund conservation projects and is continuously searching for additional conservation opportunities. OCR’s current efforts are bringing immediate benefits to fish and to the Odessa Subarea, a region in crisis due to a declining aquifer. OCR is also funding pilot projects that may yield water for new water rights.



Conservation Projects Benefiting Fish

  • Barker Ranch - An open canal was converted to a closed pipe system. The increased efficiency allows the Benton County ranch to divert less water from the Yakima, adding an additional 6,436 ac-ft of water to stream flows when fish need it most.

  • Manastash Water Ditch Association - An earthen unlined ditch will be replaced by a pipe. The resulting gain in efficiency will add 454 ac-ft to stream flows.

Conservation Projects Benefiting the Odessa Subarea

  • Columbia Basin Irrigation Districts Coordinated Conservation Plan -- Ecology provided $30,000 to the irrigation districts to develop a strategy to coordinate and maximize water conservation opportunities in each district.

  • Columbia Basin Irrigation District Piping – Districts conserve approximately 2000 ac-ft of water by converting open canals and ditches to a piped system.

Conservation Projects That May Yield Water for New Water Rights

  • Conservation Commission Pilot Project – OCR provided $1 million the Washington State Conservation Commission to build up to 3 on-farm conservation projects to evaluate retiming of return flows for issuance of new permits.

  • Franklin Conservation District Irrigation Water Management – OCR is providing funding to Franklin CD to develop a program to capture water conserved through irrigation water management practices. It is estimated that the methods studied could yield as much as 394,400 ac-ft of water savings.

  • Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association Voluntary Regional Agreement – CSRIA and OCR will fund three conservation projects as a pilot to measure water savings. If enough water is saved, new water rights will be issued based on those savings and on any other mitigation water that is acquired.

Farmland along the Columbia River near Entiat, WA. (photo by: Wendy Valdez)