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 with plans for 2013-15 include:

Work in Progress - July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015

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 information on tracking water right decisions in fiscal year 2015 and priority processing activity in the Yakima Basin:

The final 2013-15 operating budget included a directive by the Legislature that required 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. The program exceeded the directive by issuing 713 water right decisions by June 30, 2014.

Rule Adoption Spokane River Instream Flow Rule

On January 27, 2015 Director Maia Bellon signed a new instream flow rule for the Spokane River and Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) Aquifer for the benefit of the community and the river.  The rule went into effect February 27, 2015.

Lake Tapps Water Supply Project

On January 17, 2015 the largest trust water donation of the state’s Trust Water Rights Program will occur when Cascade Water Alliance  provides a portion of the water rights it acquired in the purchase  of Lake Tapps to the program.  This permanent donation, equivalent to enough water to fill a football field 130 miles deep, in addition to a second temporary donation of 154, 51 acre feet of water will ensure that adequate flows for fish stay in the White River until 2034 and beyond.  The trust water donation was made in exchange for Ecology’s approval of the water right transfers needed to make Lake Tapps a future municipal water supply.

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.

Manastash Creek pipeline first construction project of Integrated Plan

Completion of work is expected in 2014 on the conversion of 3.2 miles of an unlined irrigation canal to a pressured pipeline for delivery of water to lower Manastash Creek.  The creek, a tributary of the Yakima River in central Washington, provides irrigation water to approximately 4,500 acres of farmland but the pipeline will benefit fish by providing an additional 1,300 acre-feet of water to a stretch of the creek that goes dry in the summer.

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.

The Department of Ecology is pleased to partner with the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe to develop a water storage and stream flow enhancement project in the Fisher Creek subbasin of the Skagit River. Fisher Creek has been closed to new un-mitigated water uses since 2011.  This project seeks to improve flow conditions by capturing stormwater runoff and retiming flows through a managed recharge facility to enhance flows during low-flow periods.  Work is underway to study the technical feasibility of a storage and recharge project.  As the project progresses, draft products will be available for review and comment. Please visit the project website for more information:

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 376,000 acre-feet in new water supplies since the program’s inception in 2006.  The program will be seeking additional funding for projects that will bring another 200,000 acre-feet of new water to Eastern Washington in coming decades.

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 2014-15 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: