The Partnership's Water Banking program facilitates water transfers amongst stakeholders. Specific branches of the program have been established to serve different key purposes. We divide Water Banking into the following categories:
- Non-Use Agreements
- Exempt-Well mitigation Exchange Credits
- Trust Water Right acquisitions
- Agreements Not to Divert
Washington water law dictates that any portion of a water right not used in 5 years is subject to "relinquishment" and returned to the State. This "use it or lose it" policy is typical of Western water law and often results in non-optimal usage of water resources. The Partnership's Non-Use Agreements protect water rights from relinquishment during times when a portion is not being put to beneficial use. As a result, irrigators benefit from the freedom to use their water rationally, while fish benefit from enhanced streamflows.
Exempt Well Mitigation Exchange Credits
Permit-exempt wells are a common way small residential and commercial water users can legally obtain water in Washington. In water-scarce basins, like the Walla Walla Basin, there are concerns that increased exempt well usage will result in injury to preexisting water rights. In response, the Washington Department of Ecology has required that consumptive water use by new exempt wells be mitigated for, providing they are in the shallow aquifer on land zoned 10 acres or less. The Partnership purchases water rights, stores them in the Water Bank for non-use, and divides them into Exempt Well Mitigation Exchange Credits
Trust Water Right Acquisitions
The Walla Walla Basin is an over appropriated basin. In other words, water rights have been issued for more water than is available. This has historically led to a seasonal pattern of streams and rivers running low or dry, as irrigators strive to satisfy their demands. The threat to Endangered Species Act listed fish is The Partnership works towards a more sustainable equilibrium by purchasing water rights from irrigators and placing them into Washington State's Trust Water Right Program as instream flow. The trusting of water rights may be temporary or permament, and allows a certain quantity of water to be protected instream.
Voluntary Diversion Reduction Agreements
Water made available through Partnership action is often at risk for diversion by irrigators who would otherwise be regulated off due to low flows. As Water Banking, Local Water Plans, and Critical Low Flow Plan coordination all result in elevated streamflows, the Partnership reaches out to such irrigators with Voluntary Diversion Reduction Agreements. Voluntary Diversion Reduction Agreements are a voluntary way for irrigators to show support for a non-regulatory approach to water management.