YAKIMA, Wash. — Water allocations for junior water right holders on the Yakima River were reduced from 72 to 67% of full entitlement by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on July 3.
That means some irrigation districts will run out of water a month or so earlier than they wanted to and there will be crop losses, district managers said.
While disappointing, the situation is still better than during the droughts of 2005 and 2015 which ended up with allocations of 42% and 47%, respectively.
The reduction was prompted by continued drought conditions, but Chris Lynch, USBR hydrologist in Yakima, said he thinks the allocation will hold for the rest of the season through September, possibly fluctuating another percentage point or two.
Relatively cool weather in late June has been helpful but temperatures are forecast to rise, he said.
Urban Eberhart, manager of Kittitas Reclamation District, said the further restriction likely will mean the district will run out of water about Sept. 10 or 12, about a week earlier than had been planned. It usually has water until Oct. 15.
The KRD will continue to provide 4 acre-feet per acre for season supply, down from 5 acre-feet, but will probably tighten daily diversions, Eberhart said.
Four new wells are being drilled in fruit-producing areas with some emergency assistance from the state Department of Ecology, he said.
Bartlett pears will be harvested by Sept. 10, he said. A lot of apples are harvested in October and early November. Orchards will have to rely on holding ponds or ground water and hay growers will find it hard to do fall seeding, he said.
Scott Revell, manager of the Roza Irrigation District, said it will remain on reduced deliveries of 3.3 gallons per minute per acre in order to have 4.0 gpm in July and August. That peak will be shorter now, he said, and “we will be lucky to run a couple days into October.”
The district has spent $10 million on water conservation since 2015. It has converted open canals to pipes, lined canals and sealed cracks.
Growers are prioritizing crops and starting to sacrifice lower value crops, he said.
Five Cascade Mountain reservoirs serving the Yakima River are at 768,642 acre-feet, which is 72% of capacity and 82.2% of average for this time of year. Inflow to the reservoirs was 43% of average and releases were 93% of average.
Diversions for the five main irrigation districts were:
• 1,561 cubic feet per second for Wapato Irrigation Project.
• 1,041 cfs for Sunnyside Valley Irrigation Distrct.
• 1,032 cfs for Kittitas Reclamation District.
• 618 cfs for Roza Irrigation District.
• 263 cfs for Yakima Tieton Irrigation District.