An Integrated Plan for Water and Long-Term Ecological Resilience

Tribal Profiles
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

The Yakima River Basin in the state of Washington supports a multi-billion dollar agriculture sector. The value of apples, cherries, and other food and natural resources harvested from across the basin make substantial contributions to the local, regional, and national economies. Additionally, the region has significant populations of salmon and steelhead trout. The fish are essential to tribal members' subsistence lifestyles and cultural traditions, and they support a thriving recreational fishing industry. Over a 15-year period in the recent past, the basin faced five years with drought conditions. The lack of water in each dry year had a strong negative impact on the region’s productivity and pointed out the risk that climate variability and change pose to the basin. Further, the Third National Climate Assessment and other studies indicate that the region can expect even more challenges as climate changes. Recognizing their vulnerability, representatives of the Yakama Nation, irrigation districts, environmental organizations, and federal, state, county, and city governments formed a work group in 2009 to design and implement a solution to the basin’s growing water problems. By 2011, the group released a basin-wide climate adaptation strategy designed to secure a future for fish, farms, and families across the basin. The Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan is a 30-year, $3.8 billion plan that restores ecological integrity to the region and provides assurances for meeting agricultural water needs even in the face of ongoing climate change. The plan is a collaborative effort to restore and protect ecosystems: it strategically and creatively addresses the realities of climate uncertainty and places the basin on a path to long-term resiliency.