Trust Water - Acquisitions - Drought Insurance Program

Acquisition is one of the water supply development tools that the Legislature directed Ecology to use in RCW 90.90.010. Acquisition can involve purchased or leased water rights, donated water rights, transferred water savings from conservation projects funded by the Account.

The Trust Water Rights Program allows Ecology to reallocate water for new permits and enhance stream flows for healthier fish habitat.

Ecology acquires trust water by purchasing or leasing water rights from willing water right holders who may choose to temporarily or permanently donate all or a portion of their water right. Trust water may also come from water conservation resulting from on-farm irrigation improvements. By taking part, water right holders keep their water right in good standing without losing it through relinquishment.

The Trust Water Rights Program operates in collaboration with:

  • Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA)
  • local governments
  • fisheries experts and wildlife biologists
  • non-profit environmental organizations
  • community & private citizen groups

Ecology set aside $1 million for water right acquisition. Ecology has contracted $50,000 with Washington Water Trust (WWT) and Washington Rivers Conservancy (WRC) to develop a pilot program to identify and acquire water supplies for the Columbia River Program. The pilot project’s focus is to develop drought supplies to benefit interruptible water right holders through Ecology’s Drought Insurance Program. We are also exploring and testing other methods, such as permanent acquisition and term leases of at least five years.

Telephone Survey

In June 2008, Ecology commissioned a telephone survey of water right holders in the Columbia Basin to gain a better understanding of how to more effectively acquire water for the Trust Program. The survey found that over half of the respondents had heard of the acquisition program and 33% of them are interested in participating. Their desire to participate varied according to how the sale would be conducted:

  • 40% preferred direct negotiations
  • 12% liked an open format
  • 6% wanted an auction
  • Only 1% preferred a reverse auction (the method employed by Ecology in the last acquisition attempt.)

Download the survey’s executive summary.


Read about Washington Water Rights (including trust water) in the recently released Washington Rivers Conservancy Handbook.



For more information please contact:

Patricia Kirk
Office of Columbia River
Trust Water Rights Coordinator
(509)249-6299 or .