Office of Columbia River

We are implementing projects to meet current and future water needs in the Columbia River Basin. By ensuring the region is prepared to respond to droughts, our work supports growing communities, the agricultural economy, endangered fish, and the natural environment. Sustainable solutions in our watersheds are critical to securing a healthy planet for future generations.

Eastern Washington water solutions

Our Columbia River Water Management Program seeks to meet current and future water needs along the Columbia River and its tributaries. We're charged with "aggressively pursuing" water solutions that concurrently meet water needs for families, industry, and farms (out-of-stream), and ecosystems and fish (instream). We're working to resolve conflicts over water and provide water security in the face of drought and changing climate.

The Legislature tasked the Office of Columbia River with six directives:

  • Find sources of water for pending water-right applications.
  • Develop water sources for new municipal, domestic, industrial, and irrigation needs.
  • Issue water supply and demand reports.
  • Secure alternatives to groundwater for agricultural users in the Odessa Subarea.
  • Find a new uninterruptible supply of water for those whose rights are curtailed on the Columbia mainstem when minimum flows are forecast to be unmet.
  • Make water available for instream benefits when needed most.

The program responds to decades of conflict over providing opportunities for new water use in the Columbia River Basin. It sets aside the fight by providing water for fish, farms, and communities.

montage showing a water tower, cherries, and two sockeye salmon spawning

The Office of Columbia River develops water supply for communities, farms, and the environment

In 2006, bi-partisan legislation was passed establishing the Columbia River Water Management Program to find solutions that meet all our water needs in Eastern Washington.

Providing access to water for new uses

Since 2006, the program has been identifying sources of water to make available for new uses. We are now able to issue new water rights for municipal, domestic, and agricultural purposes and release water for endangered fish species along the Columbia and its tributaries when its needed most. Stored water from existing reservoirs, enhanced water conservation projects, and infrastructure improvements are making water available for:

  • Farmers in the Odessa Subarea, vineyards on Red Mountain, and throughout Eastern Washington.
  • Fish migration and habitat in the Methow and Yakima River basins and other tributaries.
  • Communities up and down the Columbia River system, like Bridgeport, Pasco, Pateros, Twisp, White Salmon, and Yakima.

Two-thirds of the water developed is made available for new water rights for municipal, domestic, industrial, and irrigation purposes. One-third of the water is set aside for streamflows benefiting fish and the natural environment.

Yakima Basin Integrated Plan

Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Management Plan builds on decades of work to achieve water security in the Yakima River basin, one of the top agricultural and fish-bearing regions in the country.

In 2013, the Legislature passed a policy bill and initial capital funding to support water solutions in the Yakima River Basin. With state, local, and federal partnerships, we are implementing the first 10 years of a 30-year plan. Initial funding for the plan came through our Office of Columbia River.

Partnerships & committees

Learn about our Columbia River and Yakima Basin advisory work groups. Join us at quarterly meetings. Keep abreast of projects and budgets. Find agendas, meeting notes, and presentations.

The Columbia River Initiative

The Columbia River Water Management Program sprang from earlier work conducted under the Columbia River Initiative (CRI).  A memorandum of understanding between Washington, the US Bureau of Reclamation and the East, South, and Quincy Columbia irrigation districts along with an agreement in principal with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, under CRI, served as the basis for creating the Columbia River Water Management Program..