Water Resources Program Activities for the 2013-15 Biennium

This page is being maintained as an archive of past information and will not be updated.

The mission of the Water Resources Program (WRP), including the Office of Columbia River (OCR) is to support sustainable water resources management to meet the present and future water needs of people and the natural environment in partnership with Washington Communities.  To accomplish this, the WRP and OCR implement ten activities within the operating and capital budgets provided by the legislature.  Activities in the program includes:

The final 2013-15 operating budget included a directive by the legislature that requires the WRP to issue 500 or more water right decisions during fiscal year 2014 (first year) or be subject to a cut of $500K at the start of fiscal year 15 (second year) of the biennium.

Work in Progress - July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014

Process Pending Water Right Applications

"$14,000,000 of the general fund--state appropriation for fiscal year 2014 and $14,000,000 of the general fund--state appropriation for fiscal year 2015 are for activities within the water resources program. Of the amounts provided in (a) of this subsection, $500,000 of the general fund--state appropriation for fiscal year 2015 is provided solely for processing water right permit applications only if the department of ecology issues at least five hundred water right decisions in fiscal year 2014, and if the department of ecology does not issue at least five hundred water right decisions in fiscal year 2014 the amount provided in this subsection shall lapse and remain unexpended. The department of ecology shall submit a report to the office of financial management and the state treasurer by June 30, 2014, that documents whether five hundred water right decisions were issued in fiscal year 2014. For the purposes of this subsection, applications that are voluntarily withdrawn by an applicant do not count towards the five hundred water right decision requirement. For the purposes of water budget-neutral requests under chapter 173-539A WAC, multiple domestic connections authorized within a single water budget-neutral decision are considered one decision for the purposes of this subsection."

The Legislature has requested that Ecology maintain an ongoing accounting of water right applications received and acted on and to post that information to Ecology’s Internet site.  Here are links to priority processing activity in the Yakima Basin, and information on tracking water right decisions this fiscal year:

Skagit River Basin Water Solutions

In April 2012, the Washington state Legislature approved $2.25 Million in funding for efforts to balance instream and out-of-stream benefits in Skagit River subbasins. This funding was re-appropriated in June 2013, to continue our efforts to find balanced water supply projects, much like we have been doing with our successful Office of Columbia River Program in eastern Washington.

On October 3, 2013, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Ecology cannot set aside reservations of water through adoption of water management rules where water was previously set aside to support stream flows for fish. Without water reservations, later water uses can be interrupted when dry spells impact the protected stream flows. Ecology found in 2006 that limited reservations would not substantially harm fish populations. The Swinomish Tribe challenged the establishment of the reservations in 2008 and appealed a Thurston County Superior Court finding in Ecology’s favor in 2010.

Yakima River Basin

On June 30, 2013, Gov. Jay Inslee signed enabling legislation for the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Management Plan.  The plan is built on cooperation and collaboration among water users and  lays the groundwork for stable water supplies decades into the future.  The governor’s bill advances comprehensive policy and water supply solutions for the Yakima River Basin.

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.

Certified Water Right Examiners Program

The statewide rule creating the Certified Water Right Examiners Program is the result of 2010 legislation that authorizes the use of contractors to complete the final proof examination to qualify water users for water right certificates.  Water users will benefit from this program because water right permits and change authorizations can be certified sooner.

Office of Columbia River

Each year, the Office of Columbia River (OCR) has funded projects consistent with our legislative mandate to "aggressively pursue development of water supplies to benefit both instream and out-of-stream water uses."  OCR has developed separate grant processes for different types of water supply projects, including Modification of Existing Storage, New Large Storage, Conservation, and Acquisition.  Below we have included a funding flowchart that briefly describes the OCR projects and funding packages. 

The above description is a synopsis of only a few of the many activities and priorities that Ecology is embarking upon during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.  We will continue to update this webpage as new information becomes available. 

Review Water Rights Application Procedures - LEAN

Ecology continues to improve efficiencies in water rights processing and permit management during the coming fiscal year.  The Water Resources Program is reviewing our existing water right application processes, with the intention of creating a streamlined process that is more efficient, takes less time, and adds value for the customer.  In order to accomplish this efficiency work, the Water Resources Program has utilized the “Lean” process.  Lean has helped companies like Toyota, Boeing, Group Health, and Virginia Mason Hospital to become more efficient, and the application of Lean in the government sector is being used in Washington and several other states with good success.

The Legislature has asked Ecology to report on reforms implemented and efficiencies achieved as demonstrated through enhanced permit processing to the appropriate committees of the Legislature on October 1, 2012.  Ecology also prepared a similar report earlier this year documenting process improvement and Lean event work, which can be viewed at:

Archive - fiscal year budget tracking for 2012