Washington Department of Ecology to lease water from irrigators in Yakima Basin
"Our leasing program is the primary component of our drought response here," Water Resources Manager for WDE’s Central Regional Office in Yakima, said. "With snowpack levels dangerously low, the upper tributary streams are at greatest risk of going dry. These creeks feed the main-stem river that delivers water downstream to other senior water users."
The leasing program will target senior water rights in tributaries above the junction of the Yakima, Naches and Tieton rivers. Water right holders will bid on the leases in a reverse auction, allowing them to declare the price they want to forgo their water diversions and refrain from planting for the 2015 irrigation season.
The Yakima Basin is currently the only area where the WDE is running the leasing program, but other programs will be considered as the drought progresses. The non-profit organizations Washington Water Trust and Trout Unlimited – Washington Water Project, both of which work to transfer water to instream flow, will partner with the WDE on the project.