(Updated August 2, 2007)

CELP’s litigation over the Quad Cities’ (Pasco, Richland, West Richland and Kennewick) water right permit obligated the cities and Ecology to comply with terms of a settlement agreement with CELP.    

We are concerned over the extent to which the cities are implementing meaningful water conservation measures, mitigating for current uses, and planning for future uses as required under the agreement. 
Without CELP’s singular efforts via strategic litigation and advocacy, the Columbia River’s resources would be even further depleted today.  CELP’s settlement agreement in the Quad Cities case is a durable, long-lasting river protective tool, and CELP is taking action to enforce it as such.  

More specific background:

The Quad Cities’ final water right permit S4-30976 contained a number of river-protective conditions negotiated via the CELP/Quad Cites settlement agreement. Among the conditions:  the cities are allowed to incrementally divert more water from the Columbia only if they comply with all permit terms  (such as meaningful conservation) and can document a legitimate need for additional water.  Although the permit allows for up to 178 cfs to be put to use by the year 2049,  initial use is capped at a maximum of 10 cfs .  And, this amount may be diverted only if low-flow mitigation in the form of “bucket for bucket” consumptive use mitigation water is in place.

In reviewing Ecology’s and the cities’ records we have discovered information indicating noncompliance or difficulties with implementing the terms of the permit and settlement agreement.   Among our discoveries:

1)	Inadequate mitigation water and mitigation planning for present and future uses.  For example, mitigation water has not been fully secured to offset the cities’ present use of water under the permit when river flow targets are unmet.  (Settlement agreement paragraph 4; permit condition E.)      

2)	Deficiencies in the cities’ Interim Regional Water Forecast and Conservation Plan and MOA, and lack of adherence to conservation requirements specified in the settlement agreement and permit

3)	Beneficial use determinations, monitoring of baseline water use data, and quantification of present water rights vs. future need are problematic. 

We have requested a meeting with Ecology officials to discuss these concerns, and are engaging in additional monitoring efforts.

Click on image to enlarge.

River advocates and the state Department of Ecology will have more tools to protect the Columbia River under the recent settlement agreement in CELP's lawsuit against Ecology and the “Quad Cities” of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland (see below).

The cities and Ecology have agreed to a number of pro-river terms in order for the four East Washington cities to have additional access to the Columbia River water they want for the future.  Among them:

•	 The cities will come up with plans to "pay back" the river during low flow periods and show direct benefits to fish and the Columbia River system,
•	 The cities will have to follow strict conservation requirements, including definite timelines for implementing programs, and
•	Ecology has agreed to postpone formal rule-making on the Columbia River Initiative until it has received the final scientific report from the National Academies of Science panel and will issue no further water rights permits from the Columbia until January 1, 2005 or the effective date of the new rules--whichever comes first.


Several sections of the Columbia near the Quad Cities fail Federal Clean Water Act standards, due in part to reduced river flows. Nearly 40% of the average natural flow of the river at McNary Dam (about 40 miles downstream from the Quad Cities) is already withdrawn (mostly for irrigation). And with hundreds of users not yet taking all of the water they are permitted to use, flows on the Columbia are likely to continue dropping, even if Ecology issues no new water rights.

Agencies as diverse as U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, B.C. Hydro of Canada, the Bonneville Power Administration, and Indian Tribes are currently working to improve salmon habitat by restoring water to the Columbia River system. Ironically, Ecology defended issuing the proposed Quad-Cities permit even though it has budgeted $588,000 for two studies to determine whether the Columbia can even afford more water withdrawals. Those recommendations are due by Spring 2004.

State law requires Ecology to ensure that Washington's rivers retain adequate flows to support fisheries and other environmental values.  Further, the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon (issued by the Governors Joint Natural Resource Cabinet) calls for a halt to new Columbia water rights until new minimum stream flows are set for the river.

Historically, Ecology has not required metering or reporting of most water withdrawals. It lacks basic water use data about thousands of water rights, and no comprehensive water budget that balances water supply and demand for the river, has ever been created.

Next:   Pasco Water Wasteimagequadcities.htmlimagewrichland.htmlwaterwaste.htmlshapeimage_2_link_2
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Website Contents

•   Overview
•   Pasco Water Waste
•   Image: Quad Cities
•   Image: W. Richland

Washington’s “Quad Cities” and the Columbia River. Click on image to enlarge.  Note the Columbia River and the cities of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco.    
The confluence with the Snake River is at the bottom center of this image.    
Source:  Google Earth.
Settlement Agreement with Ecology and the Quad Cities
Water use in West Richland is substantial as this satellite photo reveals.  It appears that golf courses and water features may use more water than the orchard next door.  Non-irrigated land to the north is flanked by the Yakima River, which suffers from extremely low flows and high temperatures during summer months, preventing and slowing migration of endangered salmon.