Water curtailments come to Chehalis River basin

After an unseasonably dry April and May, the Washington Department of Ecology has notified 93 junior water right holders in the Chehalis River basin that their access to surface water for irrigation is curtailed until streamflows improve in the state’s second largest drainage basin.

According to DOE, the notice applies to outdoor water use only, primarily used in irrigation. 

The curtailment notice does not apply to indoor water use or water for livestock.

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.

This is the seventh consecutive year that DOE has issued curtailment orders or notices for junior surface water irrigation users in the Chehalis basin to comply with the regulation requirements. 

Water rights staff with DOE will keep a field presence throughout the watershed and are available to answer questions.

Check our flow monitoring app to see if instream flows are being met.

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 dry in the Chehalis River basin, and there is little melting snow left to compensate for the tightening water supply.

We’re required by law to protect senior water right users and adopted streamflows 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 adopt flow levels into state rule. Once instream flows are set, when actual streamflows drop below the adopted instream flow levels, junior water rights (those established after the instream flow) can be temporarily interrupted to keep water in the stream.

Setting instream flows protects 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.