Pasco may have found about two-thirds of the water it needs to fill the gap between the water its residents use and the city's water rights.
That water has been freed up by an adjustment in how much water the state Department of Ecology acknowledges the Tri-Cities and West Richland return to the Columbia River, Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield told the Pasco City Council on Monday.
It is one of the changes Pasco, Kennewick, Richland and West Richland are being asked to approve in a memorandum of agreement concerning the so-called quad-cities Columbia River water right that the four cities share.
Because it is the first regional water right approved in the state, an agreement is needed so everyone knows what rules apply, Crutchfield said.
When the permit was issued, the Department of Ecology agreed to offset the amount of water consumed by the cities by obtaining additional water so the balance in the river is maintained, Crutchfield said.
In the original calculation, the department said the cities use 80 percent of the water they take out of the river, he said. That has been changed to 60 percent in this proposed agreement.
Councilwoman Rebecca Francik said the change will save citizens money in the long term.
In addition to saving the state the cost of obtaining more water, Crutchfield said the change frees up about 782.4 million gallons of water, or 2,400 acre-feet, that can be purchased for $40 per acre-foot per year.
New water rights issued in the state will carry an annual fee. Water from the city's pending application with the Bureau of Reclamation would cost about $48 per acre foot, Crutchfield said.
The other three cities don't need additional water rights yet, he said. Pasco does because the demand for water created by the city's growth in the past 15 years has outstripped what the city can legally withdraw.
Pasco's deficit is about 1.2 billion gallons, or 3,600 acre-feet. Right now, Pasco is borrowing water from the other cities, but that water must be returned.
The proposal would also resolve the dispute between Pasco and the Department of Ecology over the 652 million gallons or 2,000 acre feet of water Pasco says the department promised to help the city secure, Crutchfield said.
Instead, the department has a $2.7 million grant that will help Pasco pay for a new, larger water intake on the west side of the city and the extension of an irrigation water pipeline along Interstate 182 to Road 100, he said.
The grant would cover the design and property acquisition for the water intake, which might be near the I-182 bridge. It would also allow the city to finish construction design and acquisition for a booster station needed to pump the water for the extended 16-inch irrigation water line.
Crutchfield said it is a fair resolution of the dispute and the grant is near the cost of the disputed amount of water.
The proposal will be on Monday'sagenda. The city council also will consider accepting the $2.7 million grant at that meeting.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org