May 28 2009
The Washington Department of Ecology issued 16 new water use permits today for the Quincy Basin near Moses Lake. This is in addition to the 16 permits it issued on May 1.
The permits issued today and on May 1 went to people who applied for Quincy Basin “artificially-stored” groundwater (ASGW) several years ago and have been waiting for water to become available.
The artificially-stored groundwater is water that has accumulated underground over many years as a result of the federal government’s Columbia Basin Project. The Columbia Basin Project provides irrigation water from Lake Roosevelt for more than 670,000 acres of agricultural land in the Columbia Basin.
The new 16 water permits are for irrigation uses, except that one permit also will authorize the Grant County Public Utilities District #2 to use nearly 5,800 acre-feet of water per year for industrial uses for aquaculture (fish farming).
The water being authorized for irrigation by the new permits ranges from irrigating a five-acre parcel with 17.5 acre-feet of water per year to irrigating a 200-acre agricultural parcel using 700 acre-feet of water per year. One acre-foot of water is equal to about 325,851 gallons of water.
In the coming months, Ecology will issue still more permits to applicants who have been waiting in line for Quincy Basin water. Permits will be issued until 177,000 acre-feet of ASGW has been fully allocated, a limit set by state regulation. As of today, 161,000 acre-feet of water is allocated, leaving 16,000 more to allocate before reaching the limit.
The market value of the roughly 30,000 acre-feet of water (total of water being allocated this spring) is estimated to be about $60 million. According to an economic analysis conducted by Ecology, the water is expected to add $12.7 million to the value of agricultural land in Grant County, $3.1 million a year in agricultural production and $60 million to the value of commercial land in the county. The communities of Ephrata, George, Moses Lake, Quincy and Warden will particularly benefit, as well as the farms, vineyards and businesses of Grant County.
Quincy Basin ASGW permits are jointly administered by Ecology and the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation. Ecology approves the permits, but those who receive permits also must agree to enter into a federal contract and to pay an annual water use fee to the Bureau of Reclamation. The permits are issued with a requirement that the water must be put to full use within three years.
For answers to frequently asked questions about the Quincy Basin permits, visit www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/0911013.html.
For more information about water rights in Washington State, visit www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/rights/water-right-home.html
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