You may know all about land trusts, but what is a water trust? In this guest post by our friends at the Washington Water Trust, learn how WWT engages in market-based transactions and cooperative partnerships to keep the rivers flowing. Authored by Jason M Hatch, Senior Program Manager, and Chris Czarnecki, Investments and Partnerships Officer.
Many Washington streams experience water scarcity due to out-of-stream uses, landscape degradation and climate change. This year, the Olympic mountain range snowpack has already melted down to 0% of normal levels. As a result, another drought designation has been issued for the Dungeness River basin.
Low stream flow has a huge impact on salmon and steelhead population. The right amount of water left instream at the right time can make a critical difference for the survival of these imperiled fish populations. Making sure that rivers have sufficient instream flows, even in drought years, requires thoughtful planning, strong partnerships and innovative approaches. Thankfully, the Washington Water Trust has got their eye on the issue in Washington State.
The Washington Water Trust (WWT) is a nonprofit organization with the mission of fostering healthy streams throughout Washington by preserving and restoring the flow of water. WWT works with many partners to implement voluntary initiatives that help direct water back into our rivers and tributaries when and where it is needed most for conservation and preservation of habitat.
You may know WWT from its Sprouting Streamflows program, in which it has partnered with Mainstem Malt to incentivize Walla Walla farmers to grow low-irrigation high-value malting barley. In growing this special dry-land barley, farmers receive a water conservation payment and connections to premium brewer, baker, and distillery buyers. WALT thought that this project was so unique, we invited WWT and Mainstem Malt to share their story with land trusts at this year’s Land Camp!
Land trusts have been strategic partners with WWT for many years, with the focus on “multiple benefit” projects. WWT’s work with land trusts dates back to 2006, when WWT partnered with Cowiche Canyon Conservancy in the Yakima River Valley to protect stream flows on their acquisition of Snow Mountain Ranch. In 2014, WWT partnered with the Capitol Land Trust during their acquisition of the Bayshore Golf Course in Shelton, purchasing the water to protect flows in Johns Creek, off Oakland Bay. WWT has also worked with the Center for Natural Lands Management to protect water with their land acquisitions in both the Deschutes and Chehalis basins. These land and water deals together magnify the multiple benefits of the projects as a whole.
As WWT looks to expand its impact, it is exploring a new set of tools with land trusts and others. For example, in 2018, WWT partnered with Kittitas County, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Trust for Public Land, to acquire land and water in the Teanaway Valley. WWT protected the water instream, Kittitas County secured water for rural well mitigation, and TPL conveyed the land to the Department of Natural Resources to add to the Teanaway Community Forest. This multiple benefit, multiple stakeholder project, guided by the Teanaway Community Forest Plan –which promotes the restoration of landscape storage with beaver reintroduction, floodplain restoration and uplands forest management– will make this community forest a critical laboratory for watershed management and restoration.
In entering this new era of freshwater resource management and protection, the lessons, successes, and partnerships with land trusts and others are essential to growing restoration impacts. Interested in connecting with Washington Water Trust? Visit their website for more details!