Office of Columbia River photo identifier

Office of Columbia River

Office of Columbia River Overview

In 2006, the Legislature tasked the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to aggressively seek out new water supplies for both instream and out-of-stream uses. The same legislation set up the Columbia River Basin Development Account and authorized $200 million to fund it. Ecology created the Office of Columbia River (OCR) to use these funds to develop new water supplies using storage, conservation, and voluntary regional water management agreements.

The Columbia River Policy Advisory Group assists OCR with policy development. It is composed of representatives from federal, state, local, and tribal governments, business and environmental groups, and water users.

Statutory Directives

The legislature tasked OCR with six directives (Chapter 90.90 RCW):

  • Find sources of water supply for pending water right applications. (RCW 90.90.020(3)(b)).
  • Develop water sources for new municipal, domestic, industrial, and irrigation water needs within the Columbia River Basin (RCW 90.90.020(3)(d))
  • Issue supply and demand reports. (RCW 90.90.040(3)).
  • Secure alternatives to groundwater for agricultural users in the Odessa subarea aquifer. (RCW 90.90.020(3)(a)).
  • Find a new uninterruptible supply of water for the holders of interruptible water rights on the Columbia river mainstem. (RCW 90.90.020(3)(c)).
  • Develop water supplies for instream as well as out-of-stream uses.” (RCW 90.90.020(1)(a)(ii)).


As of January 1, 2016, OCR has added almost 376,000 ac-ft of water to Eastern Washington’s water supply at a cost of $506 per ac-ft (water typically costs thousands of dollars more per acre ft) Another 320,000 ac-ft of water will be made available in the near term. More water is under long-term development tied to future demand projections.

More Information

Statute, Rule, and History

Additional Resources

Columbia River near McNary Dam 2009 (photo by Wendy Valdez)