Of Water and Trust: A Review of the Washington Water Acquisition Program

Note: This report is a product of the Policy Consensus Center, a joint service of the Washington State University Extension and the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.

Of Water and Trust: A Review of the Washington Water Acquisition Program

"After three years of effort, receptivity to the concept has been mixed and uptake of the program across the state has been considerably less than Ecology expected. The program has been controversial, and according to Ecology, one of the most challenging tasks in acquiring water rights is finding willing sellers. Many potential participants are uninformed about the flow- level problem, have concerns about the long-term impact of transferring water out of agriculture and other uses, and generally mistrust both instream flow-transfer activities and government-run water markets.

In June 2003, Ecology invited the Policy Consensus Center (PCC), a joint initiative of Washington State University and University of Washington, to review the Water Acquisition Program. It asked the Center to provide an independent public report on the views, perceptions, and responses of affected and interested parties concerning the program and its stated policy goals and to suggest ways, if indicated by the study, to reevaluate or adjust the program. Thus, the central questions for this report are:

Before undertaking this project, PCC staff contacted a representative sample of leaders in interested or affected institutions and areas to confirm that such a review would be welcome and that it could be undertaken from a neutral perspective. The responses were positive and, while noting that the issues were complex and highly charged, the PCC was encouraged to proceed.

This report seeks to provide an accurate and impartial analysis of the design and operations of the Water Acquisition Program. Although the study was commissioned by Ecology, it was conducted with complete independence, including full editorial control over this report and its conclusions. "