Ecology is required by state law to retain adequate amounts of water in streams to protect and preserve instream resources and uses (such as fish, wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, water quality and navigation). One of the best water management tools for protecting stream flows is to set flow levels in regulation. Specific stream flow amounts protected in a regulation are called “instream flows.”
Both the natural environment and our community water supplies rely on healthy stream flows. Yet many streams around the state are often below critical levels. Some streams have dropped to historic lows. Population growth and reduced snowpack continue to put more stress on this finite resource. No new water is being made!
Watershed management groups around the state are examining local water resources and many are working with Ecology to set or revise instream flows in their watersheds. The intent is to set instream flows throughout the state. More information
Setting flows does not put water in streams, and does not affect existing (senior) water rights. Instream flows protect the river from future withdrawals.
Department of Ecology, HQ
Policy and instream flow rule questions:
Department of Ecology
STATEWIDE PROGRESS ON SETTING INSTREAM FLOWS
Instream flow data are provided to inform the public about the amount of water available in the streams and rivers they rely on.
Development and Implementation of Watershed Plans
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