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Finding Balance
A dry creek

Wheat...Potatoes...Apples...The Columbia Basin wasn't always a "breadbasket." Generations of families and communities dedicated themselves to make this happen. They tapped the region's water and sent it to thirsty lands.

The American people also saw the Basin as a good investment and billions of taxpayer dollars helped to build the dams and irrigation systems that transfer water across it. That water is allocated to producers through a system of legal rights first established in the late nineteenth century when it seemed there was no end to land or water.

Now, though, water rights have been parceled out; in many places, more rights have been assigned than there is water to meet them. During a typical growing season, stretches of many streams and rivers in the Columbia Basin run low — and sometimes dry. In years with below average snow and rain, shortages are even more severe.

While Americans value the production of food and fiber, we also have other values that are affected by the allocation of water. For people who make their living by fishing or for those who just enjoy the outdoors, wet streams are a part of what makes the Columbia Basin - and Northwest - feel like home.