The Walla Walla Water 2050 initiative has been authorized by the Washington Legislature as an effort to improve streamflows and water supplies in the Walla Walla River Basin over the next 30 years.
Overlapping the states of Washington and Oregon, the Walla Walla basin is a complex watershed struggling to meet water needs for rural and urban growth and to maintain sufficient instream flows for fish. The plan will encompass solutions from the basin's varied stakeholders, including interests in both states, regional tribes, local residents and farmers, environmental and conservation groups, and state and federal governments.
Beginning in the fall of 2019, our team is facilitating efforts to produce a plan to be submitted to the Legislature by June of 2021.
The Walla Walla River flows from its headwaters in the mountains of Oregon, through Washington where it converges with the Columbia River near Wallula, Wash. Water availability for people, farms, and fish is a problem in the basin, particularly in the summer when demand is the highest.
Over the last decade, the Walla Walla Management Partnership developed local water plans and water banking agreements to protect more than 20,500 acre-feet of water rights from “use it or lose it” relinquishment. The group also worked with stakeholders across the border, including Oregon’s Walla Walla Basin Watershed Council, to examine big-picture water resource issues and preserve streamflows at crucial times of the year.
Still, the projects have not adequately achieved streamflow goals and aquifers continue to decline, according to a 2018 report to the Legislature.
In 2019, the Washington Legislature tasked the Walla Walla Management Partnership and the Department of Ecology to collaboratively develop a 30-year Strategic Plan for water management in the Walla Walla Basin. Together with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and stakeholders on both sides of the state border, the partners began this process, dubbed Walla Walla Water 2050, later that year.This strategic planning effort is due to conclude with a report to the Legislature in November 2021 and a final 30-year plan by June 2021.