Seattle, WA – Washington Water Trust (WWT) announced that Amazon Web Services (AWS) and community partners supported a drought relief program in Clallam County on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula that enhanced stream flows to help ensure healthy salmon runs in the Dungeness River. The effort was in response to Washington Governor Jay Inslee issuing an emergency drought declaration for twelve counties this summer, including Clallam. The Dungeness River is one of the most productive and critical salmon-bearing rivers in the Puget Sound region, supporting five species of salmon and Endangered Species Act-listed steelhead and bull trout.
The Dungeness River basin is snowpack dependent and has historically relied on a moderate temperature increase from spring to summer to have that snowpack melt and provide water throughout the season. However, an exceedingly warm spring decimated that snowpack reservoir this year, leaving the river with extreme low flows. The support by AWS helped WWT work with farmers in the Dungeness Water Users Association (DWUA) to retain flows in the Dungeness River at a time when the river was lowest due to the drought.
WWT Executive Director James Kraft shared, “Every year is important for salmon sustainability, and this year features the forecasted return of almost 400,000 pink salmon, making addressing drought conditions even more critical. Our team is nimble and we have strong relationships with local farmers, so the contribution by AWS allowed us to fully implement a strong drought response. AWS supported voluntary emergency one-month agreements with eighteen farmers to not irrigate lands from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15, which kept water in the Dungeness River during a critical time for salmon,” shared Kraft.
Will Hewes, Water Sustainability Principal for Amazon, shared, “AWS is supporting this work as part of our commitment to return more water to communities than we use in our data center operations. We’re particularly excited to support water sustainability in the Puget Sound region, where Amazon started and where many of our employees live and work.”
Hewes added, “We’re always looking for opportunities to leverage our funding to make a bigger impact and this innovative partnership with Washington Water Trust could provide a scalable model for helping watersheds and communities adapt to impacts of climate change. In this case, our contribution is helping to create a meaningful difference for the Dungeness River and the many species that rely on it.”
AWS’s support for the WWT project is part of a broader commitment AWS has to be water positive by 2030. One way AWS will reach water positive is through water replenishment projects that help to expand community water access, availability, and quality by restoring watersheds or bringing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene services to water-stressed communities.
The Washington State Department of Ecology also provided support to WWT for emergency drought programs in the Dungeness. Their support enabled WWT to add a second element to the drought relief effort aimed at retaining more water in the Dungeness River. Working with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and DWUA farmers, WWT coordinated four river diversion “pulse flows”, bursts of water that helped fish move upstream safely while they migrate.
Hansi Hals, Natural Resources Director for Jamestown S’Klallam said that, “The Tribe is pleased and relieved that the Dungeness flow conservation measures were undertaken. Especially now, we are in a critical time because there are newly formed channels in a reconnected floodplain with many salmon moving upstream. We are grateful to Washington Water Trust, the Dungeness Water Users Association, AWS, and the Washington State Department of Ecology and anticipate this water conservation will help distribute pink and Chinook to spawning grounds.”
WWT drought relief efforts are part of the organization’s ongoing work to address water scarcity in the face of climate change. “Our water supply in Washington is becoming unpredictable,” shared Kraft. “We are collaborating with diverse partners and working hard to ensure fish, farms, and communities can all thrive for generations.”
ABOUT WASHINGTON WATER TRUST
Founded in 1998, Washington Water Trust is a nonprofit organization that protects and restores rivers and streams. They partner with individuals, tribes, govt. agencies, businesses, and other nonprofits to direct water back into rivers and streams when and where it is needed most. Their work has resulted in increased stream flows in more than 50 rivers and streams throughout Washington.
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Featured photo: Freshwaters Illustrated