New law improves capabilities for drought response and preparedness – Dept of Ecology


Some good news during this bad year.

A bill initiated by the state Department of Ecology to deal with drought, ESB 1622, passed the state legislature in March and was signed by Gov. Inslee on March 27. The new law streamlines the state’s response to drought emergencies. It facilitates interagency cooperation, eases the flow of money from the legislature to the Department of Ecology so it can help alleviate drought-related hardships, and expands the types of projects funded during a drought emergency. The new law also authorizes issuing a “drought advisory warning” ahead of an emergency.

Before this new law, state agencies could help support water users during drought emergencies, but had little authority to provide support before one was declared. Now, when DOE have funds available, they can help water users invest in projects that will build their resiliency to drought conditions and water shortages before the emergency occurs. These projects might include constructing a back-up well for a small community, helping a farmer invest in water conservation measures, or constructing emergency water intakes for fish hatcheries and rescuing stranded fish.

Under authority provided by the new law, DOE also will explore a creative way to lease water rights during times of drought. In past drought years, DOE would lease water rights from water users who could forgo using their water to keep it instream for fish. The challenge, however, was finding water rights to lease during a drought. The few rights that were available were expensive.

DOE will launch a pilot program to explore entering into long-term water right leases. These leases will be negotiated ahead of time and could last for up to four years. If a drought were declared during that period, DOE could “activate” the agreement and lease the water for a pre-determined price. These long-term leases will act almost as insurance, providing certainty to both water users and the state. This is a tool that’s been lauded by experts, but only tried in a few places. DOE is excited to lead the country in exploring this innovative tool.

(Dept of Ecology)

A state drought law is passed

%d bloggers like this: