A pre-filed bill filed on Dec. 3 would allow water rights donations to be used for mitigation of drought conditions if it passes this legislative session.
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Senate Bill 6036 would give the Department of Ecology the authority to allow water rights donations to the Trust Water Rights Program in the interest of using donated water for drought mitigation. Essentially, this means whoever owns water can donate that right to use the water to fight the effects of drought conditions in the state. The bill, sponsored by Senators Jim Honeyford (R-15th District), Kevin Van De Wege (D-24th District), Judy Warnick (R-13th District), Ron Muzzall (R-10th District) and Shelly Short (R-7th District), would also require the Department of Ecology to inform a water rights donor to the Yakima river basin trust water rights program that their donation can be used toward minimizing the effects of drought, although the donation doesn’t have to be used for that purpose.
That section also stipulates water rights donors to the Yakima river basin or the state trust water rights program don’t have to allow any of their water rights donation to be used for drought mitigation, and that if the water right donation is used to minimize drought impacts, the donor must approve that use. All water rights donations to the trust water right system are tax-deductible.
Water rights donated to the trust for the specific purpose of drought mitigation do not have to be included in a schedule the Department of Ecology creates ahead of every irrigation season. This schedule includes the amount of water saved due to water conservation projects each year and is used to predict water supply conditions and demands for the next irrigation season. The schedule is also used to decide trust water rights distribution and management.
The introduction of SB 6036 comes during a state drought emergency in which 27 watersheds are expected to face drought conditions, according to the Department of Ecology. The drought declaration expires on April 4.