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Eastern Washington water projects

Our water supply and environmental enhancement projects are helping to ease water conflicts in Eastern Washington. We're responding to decades of competition for water that stymied new development and threatened several fish species listed as endangered along the Columbia River and its tributaries.

We are implementing water projects that meet current needs and future demands. 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 River and its tributaries when it's needed most.

In the Yakima River basin, we're seeking resiliency in the face of drought and climate change. This is an integrated approach to finding water solutions and enhancing the natural environment with projects that provide fish passage, promote water exchanges and efficiencies, and protect and improve water supplies and water quality.

View of Columbia River cliffs and water near Vantage, WA

Columbia River near Vantage, WA

Columbia Basin Water Project priorities

In 2006, bipartisan legislation was passed establishing the Columbia River Water Management Program to aggressively pursue water supplies that meet all water needs in Eastern Washington.

Our projects tap into stored water from existing reservoirs, improve and build needed infrastructure, and restore habitat and develop enhanced water conservation projects to make 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, including Bridgeport, Pasco, Pateros, Twisp, White Salmon, and Yakima.

Learn more about our Columbia River projects.

Securing Odessa replacement water

One of our top priorities is to find alternatives to groundwater for agricultural users in the Odessa subarea aquifer, where the aquifer is steadily declining. Partnering with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, we have secured enough water to allow 90,000 acres of land to be switched from deep water wells to Columbia Basin project surface water. This project is outlined in the Bureau of Reclamation's Odessa subarea special study final environmental impact statement.
Inspectors walk through a 14-foot diameter underground concrete pipe that will convey irrigation water

Workers inspect Lind Coulee Siphon, one of six new siphons needed to convey surface water to the Odessa Subarea.

Delivering Odessa water

A number of infrastructure improvements are helping us deliver water to the Odessa subarea. In 2012, the Weber Siphon Project made it possible to move water from Lake Roosevelt to farms south of Interstate 90. Ecology, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District completed work in 2015 to widen the East Low Canal and install a new siphon and gate at Lind Coulee. The irrigation districts are building the infrastructure to deliver irrigation water to farmers now relying on groundwater wells.

According to a Washington State University regional economic impact study, the economic and environmental benefits of this work include:

  • Preserving $630 million annually in regional potato production, processing, and sales.
  • Protecting 3,600 jobs and $211 million in regional income.
  • Reducing long-term and irretrievable impacts to the declining Odessa subarea aquifer.

Learn more about our Odessa groundwater replacement program.

Drip irrigation at a vineyard

Drip irrigation at a vineyard

Lake Roosevelt water
for cities & farmers

We are focusing on projects that deliver water already stored behind Grand Coulee Dam in Lake Roosevelt based on a 132,500 acre feet storage right from 1938. This readily available water is supplying a portion of the replacement water (30,000 acre feet) for farmers drawing on the declining Odessa subarea aquifer. Also, new water (25,000 acre feet) is being made available for cities and industries with pending applications. At the same time, one-third of the total water supply is released (27,500 acre feet) for Columbia River flow enhancement. In times of drought, an additional 33,000 acre feet of stored water will be released so irrigation water rights won't be interrupted, along with 17,000 additional acre feet to help fish.

The economic and environmental benefits include:

  • New water users pay a fee of $35 per acre foot of water per year to reimburse the taxpayer investment in the project.
  • At full build-out, the project is estimated to add 35,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic value.
  • Helping fish by adding 27,500 acre feet to Columbia River flows every year. In drought years, 17,000 additional acre feet will be added for flows.

Learn more about Lake Roosevelt water rights.

Sullivan Lake in Pend Oreille County

Sullivan Lake in Pend Oreille County

Sullivan Lake water for rural northern counties

A water right once used to generate power by the Pend Oreille Public Utility District for the City of Seattle is making 14,000 acre feet available from Lake Sullivan for water rights to rural communities in six Northeast Washington counties where water supply opportunities are scarce. Two-thirds of the water released will offset new wells or diversions for farms, cities, and towns in Douglas, Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, and Stevens counties, with the remainder released to enhance streams.

The economic and environmental benefits include:

  • New water users pay $60 per acre foot of water for 25 years to offset water costs.
  • Up to $1.4 billion total in new tax base at full allocation.
  • 4,667 acre feet of water will enhance streamflows for fish.

Learn more about Lake Sullivan water rights.

Sockeye salmon spawning in the Cle Elum River

The first sockeye salmon hatched in the Yakima Basin in a century return to spawn in the Cle Elum River. The Yakima Integrated Plan provides increased streamflows, habitat improvements, and passage for fish in addition to increasing water supply for farms and communities.

Yakima basin integrated water solutions

Projects developed under the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Management Plan work to enhance the water needs of a top agricultural-producing region and important fish-bearing watershed in our state. Responding to years of drought, fish extinctions, and changing climate, the plan takes a holistic approach to the Yakima basin's water needs, integrating water supply projects with fish and habitat enhancement efforts.

In 2013, the Legislature authorized implementation of the Yakima basin integrated plan, which:

  • Supports a $4.5 billion agricultural/food production industry.
  • Enhances and restores a vital salmon and steelhead population.
  • Provides many recreational activities, such as boating, fishing, hunting, and hiking.
  • Protects senior water rights, advances, conservation, water markets, and exchanges.

Learn more about Yakima River basin water supply projects.