Curtailments come to the Chehalis River basin

Notice applies to outdoor water use only — mostly irrigation

A sprinkler in a field

The curtailment notice affects junior water right holders.

After an unseasonably warm and dry May, we have notified 93 junior water right holders in the Chehalis River basin that their access to surface water for irrigation is curtailed until streamflows increase in the state’s second largest watershed and drainage basin.
The water users have rights that are junior to (younger than) the 1976 instream flows set by state rule for the basin. Those junior water right holders need to stop diverting water from the Chehalis, Newaukum, Satsop, and Wynoochee rivers when flows are not being met to keep the water in the stream. We sent notification letters to the 93 junior water right holders on May 31.
This is the fourth consecutive year we have issued curtailment orders or notices for junior surface water irrigation uses in the Chehalis basin to comply with the regulation requirements. The curtailment notice does not apply to indoor water use or water for livestock.
As we’ve done in prior years, our staff will periodically visit the basin and are available to answer questions in person, by telephone, or email.
Check our website to see if instream flows are being met:
·        Lower Chehalis watershed
·        Upper Chehalis watershed

Unusual May weather

The Chehalis basin receives most of its runoff from rain, with some minor contributions from snowpack at higher elevations in headwater streams in the Southern Olympic Mountains. Streamflows in the basin are lower than normal for this time of year. It’s been warm and dry in the Chehalis River basin and there is little melting snow left to compensate for the tightening water supply.

Instream flows protect rivers

View of a river with trees on both sides

The Newaukum River.

We are required by law to protect senior water right users and adopted streamflows for rivers and streams to make sure there is enough water to meet the needs of people, farms, and fish. One of the most effective tools for protecting streamflows is to set instream flows, which are flow levels adopted into rule.

An instream flow rule was established in 1976 for Chehalis basin streams. Since then, newer water rights have been issued that are junior to the flow rule. When flows drop below the adopted levels, junior water rights (those established after the instream flow rule was adopted into law) can be temporarily interrupted in an effort to keep the protected amount of water in the stream. This means junior water rights are curtailed from withdrawing water until streamflows rise above the established flow levels.
Setting instream flows protects our streams, rivers, and lakes from new withdrawals that would harm instream resources including fish, wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, water quality, and navigation.
Read more about protecting streamflows