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Water Resources

Water Acquisition

Increasing Stream Flows in Critical River Basins

In 2003, the state launched the Washington Water Acquisition Program, a voluntary program to increase stream flows in 16 watersheds with vulnerable salmon and trout populations.  The program is backed by strong interest and support from local, state, federal and tribal governments and private entities.  State agencies involved include the departments of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife and Washington Conservation Commission.

How the Program Works

Using state and federal funds, program sponsors are providing an opportunity for farmers, ranchers and other water-right holders to participate in salmon recovery by selling, leasing or donating their water where critically low stream flows limit fish survival.

All water obtained through the program will be returned to the creeks, streams and rivers where it was originally withdrawn. Program sponsors have developed criteria and guidance to help ensure water-right acquisitions receive fair market value and are targeted in areas that will most benefit fish.

Ways to Participate

Sell all or part of your water right:
  • Water will be held permanently in trust by the state.
  • Program sponsors will work with you to negotiate a price based on fair market value.
Lease all or part of your water right:
  • Long-term leases have a higher priority.
  • No risk of relinquishing the water you place in the program.
  • Program sponsors will work with you to determine its market value for compensation.
Donate all or part of your water right on a permanent or temporary basis:
  • Permanent donations have a higher priority.
  • Receive the same portion back at the end of your donation period.
  • No risk of relinquishing the water held in trust.
  • Donation may qualify as a charitable tax deduction.
  • Program sponsors will work with you to determine the value of your donation.
Participants in the state Water Irrigation Efficiencies Program:
  • May voluntarily place all or part of water saved into trust to enhance stream flows.
  • Grants awarded are based on demonstrated need and environmental benefit, and are administered by local conservation districts.
  • Proportion of saved water placed in the trust water rights program must be at least equal to the percentage of public investment in the conservation measure or irrigation efficiency.

Fish-critical basins

Map of 16 Fish Critical Basins

These are the 16 basins across the state where low flows are a known limiting factor to salmon populations. They have been identified by the statewide salmon recovery strategy.

In Eastern Washington, the basins are:

Lower Yakima, Methow, Middle Snake, Naches, Okanogan, Upper Yakima, Walla Walla and Wenatchee.

In Western Washington, the basins are:

Cedar-Sammamish, Chambers-Clover, Elwha-Dungeness, Green-Duwamish, Nooksack, Puyallup-White, Quilcene-Snow and Snohomish.


Central Regional Office
Kelsey Collins
Department of Ecology
15 W Yakima Ave, #200
Yakima WA 98902
  WDFW Region 3 Office
Jonathan Kohr
(Instream Flow Biologist)
Department of Fish and Wildlife
1701 S. 24th Ave.
Yakima WA 98902


Of Water and Trust

A Review of the Washington Water Acquisition Program

Flow Restoration Prioritization for the 16 Critical Basins

When acquiring or leasing water is important to determine which streams would benefit from
expenditure of acquisition monies.


Trust Water Program Workshops

Workshop materials for workshops - Water Banking and Trust Water

Analysis of Water Banks in the Western States

The report “Analysis of Water Banking in the Western States” provides an analysis of water banking legislation, policies, and programs in 12 Western states