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Schoesler Encourages Farmers, Others to Sign up
for Odessa Aquifer Water Relinquishment Program

by Staff
Wheat Life, November 2006

Washington State Senator Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, is encouraging farmers and others relying on the Odessa aquifer for water to sign up for a new program that eases water relinquishment laws for the region served by the aquifer.

The program was created by a measure (Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6151) that Schoesler prime-sponsored in the legislature early this year. The legislature approved the measure and Governor Gregoire signed it into law last March.

This new law, now in effect, aims to conserve water by allowing groundwater right holders in the Odessa Groundwater Subarea to leave part or all of their water in the Odessa aquifer without worrying about losing the unused portion of the water right under the "use it or lose it" water relinquishment law. Doing so would save water for municipal water users and domestic wells, Schoesler said.

"It's a short-term, common-sense solution so farmers and others relying on the aquifer can take water from it when they need to and not use that water when they don't need it," Schoesler said. "Harvest season is over for most farmers. Others are planting their seeds for winter wheat, so now is a great time for farmers and other eligible parties to sign up for the time-out program."

For those not participating in the program, any unused portion of a water right that isn't fully exercised over a five-year period remains at risk of loss under current relinquishment statutes.

People interested in signing up for the program should contact the state Department of Ecology's Eastern Regional Office in Spokane at 509-329-3400. Water Resources Program staff can answer questions and confirm whether someone's well is within the Odessa Subarea covered by the legislation.

The Department of Ecology has an Odessa Subarea Conservation Relinquishment Exception form available online. To access a link to this form, go to

To claim an exemption to relinquishment under the program, applicants need to: fill out the date in the space provided on the form; provide their name, address and phone number in case DOE needs to contact them with questions; include the water right number (permit, certificate or claim) for which they claim the relinquishment exemption (one form is necessary for each water right); check the appropriate box for either temporarily stopping or reducing water use, or for resuming water use, and the date the action was taken; sign the form and mail it to: Washington Department of Ecology, Water Resources Program, N. 4601 Monroe, Spokane, WA 99206.

Ground water right holders who choose to participate must notify the Department of Ecology in writing within 180 days of their decision to suspend or reduce water use. This gives water right holders who used less than their full water allocation an opportunity to send in the notice following the heavy work season. The new law also requires notification when a water right holder resumes full use of a water right.

Schoesler said the new program helps ensure that farmers and other water users in much of the Columbia Basin can better cope with conditions caused by the rapidly declining Odessa aquifer.

"Many farmers living in this region rely on the Odessa aquifer for irrigation water," Schoesler said. "The aquifer is being depleted and there is no other available source of water. By giving participants broad protection from water relinquishment laws, this program will encourage conservation and help save agriculture and the communities in this region while a long-term irrigation solution is developed."

The new law has a sunset date of July 1, 2021, unless water from the federal Columbia Basin project reaches participating water right holders before this date.

Schoesler Encourages Farmers, Others to Sign up for Odessa Aquifer Water Relinquishment Program
Wheat Life, October 2006

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