Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan

Yakima Nelson Dam Weir | Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan

Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan

Ensuring a Robust Yakima River Basin 

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operates the Yakima Project to supply water to the Yakima River Basin of central Washington state. Water from the Yakima Project supports the basin’s $3.4 billion crop, livestock and food processing economy. However, these water supplies are highly vulnerable to recurring droughts. In addition, endangered salmon and steelhead that live in the Yakima River and its tributaries have declined sharply from pre-project conditions. Without a consensus on a clear path forward, past efforts to resolve these problems stalled repeatedly.

We have been working with Reclamation and Washington State Department of Ecology since 2009 to address the competing water demands in the Yakima River Basin, including leading a multidisciplinary team to develop solutions to these challenges.

We facilitated an 18-month series of discussions among a stakeholder/agency workgroup and conducted the Yakima Basin Study under Reclamation’s WaterSMART program. The study included analysis of water needs, water supplies, climate change considerations and analysis of 17 distinct actions to improve supply, stream flow and fish habitat. We modeled the federal water supply system to evaluate the effects of various water storage alternatives and operational protocols on supply and stream flow. We produced more than 30 technical reports on a range of major water storage and fish passage improvements, as well as programmatic actions to improve supply, fish habitat and stream flow throughout the basin. These efforts culminated in the drafting and approval of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.

The plan was developed in a collaborative process involving water users, local cities and counties, environmental groups, the Yakama Nation, and state and federal agencies. It includes over 20 proposed individual projects and programs to achieve significant ecological restoration and water supply improvements in the basin. The plan has seven major elements: surface water storage, groundwater storage, enhanced water conservation, habitat protection and enhancement, fish passage, structural and operational changes, and market reallocation. 

Washington state passed specific legislation in 2013 to implement the plan. Today, we continue to provide facilitation and technical support to the Integrated Plan Workgroup. We’ve helped the Workgroup develop budget requests, prepare an environmental impact statement for the first large water storage project, continue to support Reclamation with hydrologic modeling that informs project selection, and facilitate the numerous committees and subcommittees tasked with carrying out the vision of the Workgroup.


Yakima Nelson Dam Weir | Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Washington State Department of Ecology

Yakima River Basin, WA
United States


Integrated Water Resources Management Project Award (2012)
American Water Resources Association