KID is working with federal and state agencies to increase water supply in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.

Now that the 2015 irrigation season has ended in this year of record-setting drought, KID is actively working to enhance and protect our communities’ water supplies and to increase our resiliency during future droughts. An important part of KID’s ongoing efforts includes participating in the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan workgroup, and being actively engaged with the authorizing legislation, Senate Bill 1694, which was introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell in July. KID supports Senate Bill 1694 and its implementation in a manner that continues to protect and preserve existing water rights and water supply in the Yakima River basin.

The Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan, or IP, is a comprehensive plan to address water-related problems in the Yakima River watershed. Participants in the IP process include federal and state agencies, the Yakama Nation, irrigation districts, cities, counties, and environmental advocacy groups. The IP consists of seven elements: fish passage, fish habitat enhancement, modifying existing structures and operations, surface storage, market-based reallocation, groundwater storage, and enhanced water conservation. When complete, the multi-billion dollar project will improve stream and habitat conditions for salmon and other fish and wildlife species, as well as provide greater water supply reliability for farmers and communities in the basin. It is expected that it will take 30 to 50 years to complete the project in its entirety.

It is unknown to what extent the enhanced water conservation component of the IP will impact KID. Detailed modeling of the lower river has never occurred, and was not considered in early modeling done of the river for the IP. KID has been working with the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to perform detailed modeling of the lower river, so that impacts of the IP actions (including water conservation) on KID water supplies can be evaluated.

KID is currently pursuing the electrification of the hydraulic pumps at Chandler, which deliver most of KID’s water supply to the Main Canal. Since these pumps are driven by water, they are not efficient during low water years. Electrification will have the dual benefit of greatly increasing the reliability of KID’s water supply while leaving some additional flow in the lower Yakima River where it may help to alleviate water quality issues and provide some benefits to aquatic life. The pumps are owned and operated by the USBR, and Congress authorized the conversion of the pumps to electricity in 1994. KID is currently working with the USBR and other stakeholders to make electrification of the Chandler pumps a reality. Costs for converting the pumps to electricity are estimated to be between $30 million and $50 million, with the annual power costs to be paid for by the USBR. The IP has recently formed a subcommittee of regional stakeholders, led by KID, to take a closer look at lower Yakima River issues, including electrification of the Chandler pumps.

Drought is a community problem, and the 2015 drought clearly served as a wake-up call for the Tri-Cities area regarding the fragile nature of water supplies in our arid region. KID staff will continue to work diligently to ensure that our water supply and water rights are protected.