On April 4, 2019, a drought emergency was declared by Governor Jay Inslee in the Methow, Okanogan, and upper Yakima River watersheds, which was later expanded to include a total of 27 watersheds. Based on current forecasting, the Okanogan is expected to be at 58 percent of normal, and curtailment notification letters have already been sent to local water users.
In partnership with the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology), the Oroville-Tonasket Irrigation District (OTID) is developing a “water bank” in the Okanogan River basin to help regional water users impacted by the drought. The water bank will be used to support instream flows and to assist “junior” water users during periods of curtailment. OTID is seeding the bank with two of its senior water rights. In 2018, Ecology, with assistance from OTID’s consultant, Aspect Consulting (Aspect), certified these water rights through the state’s Certified Water Right Examiner process.
In the coming weeks, Ecology is working to complete the required permitting to place the water rights in the state’s Trust Water Right Program (TWRP) to create the water bank (read more about water banks on Ecology’s website). This water bank will be seeded with about 7,500 acre feet of water, which will be made available for drought relief. From this bank, eligible water users can “withdraw” water for both irrigation and municipal or domestic uses.
When will this water be available?Ecology and OTID have rapidly responded to the forecasted drought scenario and now have the water bank open and available for use. Details on drought year leasing, permitting requirements, and cost is provided below.
Who can use this water?Water will be available for use by Similkameen River (below Nighthawk) and main-stem Okanogan and Columbia River surface water users impacted by the drought. Lower reaches of Okanogan River tributaries and groundwater users may also qualify, pending application-specific evaluation.
How can this water be used?Mitigation water can be used to provide drought relief to those impacted and/or curtailed by the 2019 drought, including irrigation, municipal and domestic, and other water supply purposes.
How can I lease water from OTID?Aspect has developed a streamlined procedure for receiving a mitigated drought relief permit through the water bank. This process includes the following steps:
1) Reach out to OTID. Fill out our inquiry form at the bottom of this page and let us know about your water needs during the 2019 drought season. To understand if we can provide suitable mitigation water that would allow you to continue irrigating, we’ll need information about where and how you will use water:
• What do you need water for?
• Where will you divert water?
• Where will you put the water to use?
• If water is for irrigation, how many acres will you irrigate, what is your crop, and what is your irrigation method?
• How much total water will you need?
• What is your total pumping rate?
2) Enter into a lease agreement. Once we know the particulars of your water needs, we will quote you a 2019 lease rate and provide you with a lease agreement for review and signature. Payment will be due with your signed lease agreement. The lease agreement will include the following information:
• Total price based on $160 per acre-foot (consumptive use);
• Duration of lease;
• Location of where water can be used;
• Quantity of water that can be used; and
• Contractual Terms.
3) Drought year application. We will help you prepare a drought year application to submit to the Department of Ecology. You should have authorization to start using your drought year permit within 15 days of Ecology accepting your application.
• Water Right Permits can be downloaded here: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/documents/ecy040114.pdf
• Be sure to check the “Drought” box at the top of the application
• Fill out this application including all requested information
• Provide us a copy, and we will review for completeness
• Submit a signed copy of your application to the Department of Ecology with a map (provided), water use calculations (provided), and a copy of the lease agreement.
• When you receive your approval, you may begin using water in accordance with the drought year permit.
Send your contact information if interested in learning more about this:To coordinate this rapid response efficiently, please click the inquiry form button below to submit your contact information to OTID’s consultant, Aspect. Aspect will be coordinating with Ecology and OTID to respond to interested water bank users.
Questions?If questions, please contact Tyson Carlson, Sr. Associate Hydrogeologist, at Aspect or Jay O’Brien, Manager of OTID. Alternatively, please check back here, as this website will be updated as more information is available.
Tyson D. Carlson, LHG, CWRESenior Associate HydrogeologistAspect Consulting, LLCtcarlson@aspectconsulting.com509.895.5923
Jay O’BrienSecretary/ManagerOroville-Tonasket Irrigation Districtotidjay@nvinet.com509.476.3696 x 3