Water supply a big impact on lower valley economy

Report: About 40 percent of jobs dependent

— A new report on the impact of water supply on the Yakima Basin’s economy finds water-dependent sectors account for 40 percent of the basin’s employment.

That means 96,000 jobs, 28,000 of which are held by agricultural workers, packers and processors.

The study, conducted by economic consulting and planning firm ECONorthwest, was released by Yakima Basin Integrated Plan stakeholders.

ECONorthwest’s report found water-dependent Yakima Basin firms produce an annual economic output of $13 billion. Agriculture and related industries generate $4.5 billion annually, and make up 75 percent of the basin’s $1.8 billion annual export value.

Outdoor recreation, highly dependent on water for healthy forests, fire safety, angling and river excursions, generated $1.2 billion in 2015 and is expected to increase faster than the basin’s population growth rate through 2050, the report said.

The report’s findings underscore the need for water security in a basin vulnerable to drought. The 2001 drought caused the loss of 4,800 job-years of employment and $441 million in agricultural and economic losses.

A partial estimate of the 2015 drought found agricultural losses of more than $122 million. The frequency and severity of droughts are estimated to increase through the 2020s.

The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan addresses these current and future threats to water supply through a package of actions including water storage, enhanced water conservation, habitat restoration, surface and groundwater storage, fish passage and water marketing.

 ECONorthwest found that Integrated Plan construction projects will generate more than $2.5 billion in economic output and $1.4 billion in personal income, supporting 27,000 job-years of work locally and 15,000 elsewhere in Washington.

Once fully implemented the Integrated Plan will prevent $823 million in drought-related economic output loss and restore fish harvests up to an annual value of $313 million, ECONorthwest found.


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