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Estimates of ground-water pumpage from the Yakima River Basin aquifer system, Washington, 1960-2000

September 23, 2006

Ground-water pumpage in the Yakima River Basin, Washington, was estimated for eight categories of use for 1960-2000 as part of an investigation to assess groundwater availability in the basin. Methods used, pumpage estimates, reliability of the estimates, and a comparison with appropriated quantities are described.

The eight categories of pumpage were public water supply, self-supplied domestic (exempt wells), irrigation, frost protection, livestock and dairy operations, industrial and commercial, fish and wildlife propagation, and ground-water claims. Pumpage estimates were based on methods that varied by the category and primarily represent pumpage for groundwater rights.

Washington State Department of Ecology’s digital database has 2,874 active ground-water rights in the basin that can withdraw an annual quantity of about 529,231 acre-feet during dry years. Irrigation rights are for irrigation of about 129,570 acres. All but 220 of the rights were associated with well drillers’ logs, allowing for a spatial representation of the pumpage. Five-hundred and sixty of the irrigation rights were estimated to be standby/reserve rights. During this study, another 30 rights were identified that were not in the digital database. These rights can withdraw an annual quantity of about 20,969 acre-feet; about 6,700 acre-feet of these rights are near but outside the basin.

In 1960, total annual pumpage in the basin, excluding standby/reserve pumpage, was about 115,776 acre-feet. By 2000, total annual pumpage was estimated to be 395,096 acre-feet, and excluding the standby/reserve rights, the total was 312,284 acre-feet. Irrigation accounts for about 60 percent of the pumpage, followed by public water supply at about 12 percent. The smallest category of pumpage was for livestock use with pumpage estimated to be 6,726 acre-feet. Total annual pumpage in 2000 was about 430 cubic feet per second, which is about 11 percent of the surface-water demand. Maximum pumpage is in July and August and during 2000, was about 100 cubic feet per second each month averaged over the Yakima River Basin aquifer system.

During 2000, non-standby/reserve pumpage associated with ground-water rights was estimated to total 253,454 acre-feet, or about 198,290 acre-feet less than the appropriated quantity. The unused part of the appropriated value is about equivalent to the irrigation pumpage for primary rights.