Water conditions east of the Cascades

Many on the eastern side of the state are already feeling early impacts of the hot, dry weather. Here’s what you need to know about water conditions east of the Cascades.  

Areas short on water

A dry creek bed covered with green and brown grasses. The creek runs under a small wooden bridge with metal railings.

Marshall Creek on May 17, 2023.

In the last month, we’ve issued curtailment notices in several basins experiencing dry conditions. We notify junior water right holders when their basin’s water levels are expected to drop below minimum instream flows. 

When curtailed, some water right holders are unable to withdraw water from a river or groundwater. Curtailments help prevent further decline in rivers with instream flow rules, and they protect senior water right holders from having their water use impaired by junior water right holders.  

This year, we sent curtailment notices to the following areas: 

  • Asotin Creek  

  • Cow Creek 

  • Entiat River 

  • Little Spokane River 

  • Marshall Creek 

  • Methow River 

  • Okanogan-Similkameen River 

  • Walla Walla River mainstem 

  • Wenatchee River 

  • Yakima River 

The Teanaway River will likely be curtailed later in the season. 

Building climate resiliency

A comparison photo of a full, blue mountain lake and the same lake with significantly receded water.

Lake Kachess in 2012 (top) and during the 2015 drought (bottom).

As climate change pushes average temperatures higher, we're seeing more rain and less snow in the mountains, earlier snow melt, and shifts in river flows and water supplies. Because of that, we’re implementing projects throughout the Columbia Basin that prepare our region to withstand these changes. These initiatives include promoting water exchanges and efficiencies, exploring storage, and protecting access to clean water.  

Together, this work builds toward water management solutions that meet current needs and future demands – for the environment, agriculture, industry, and growing communities. 

Learn more about our water supply projects in Eastern Washington

The big picture

A line graph with blue, green, and red lines shows reservoir storage levels in the Yakima Basin January to July 2023.

Early July data points (top right) for the Yakima Basin water year. (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

While we’re feeling the water pinch east of the Cascades, curtailments are often a normal part of water management. That means that for now, we’re focused on protecting flows for fish while minimizing hardship on our region’s agriculture. 

Throughout the summer, we’ll monitor the situation so we can support local communities and keep our economy strong. We know conditions are uncertain as we move further into the summer. Wherever we can, we’ll work with growers to find viable solutions to water shortages. 

And, with a hot, dry summer ahead of us, we’re keeping a close eye on water supplies and are preparing to act if conditions further deteriorate. Until things change, be smart with your water usage.