Community & Regional Connections > Region Eight

Washington water rights (even for homeowners) affected by Supreme Court ruling

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Mr. Bill:

3/1/17: Bill to fix rural water rights passed by state Senate

Mr. Bill:

--- Quote from: Mr. Bill on October 19, 2016, 07:01:35 PM ---...The WA Supreme Court ... is requiring counties (not the Dept of Ecology) to make sure there is enough water available before allowing development.  "Enough water" means enough to protect stream flows, and also enough to ensure that someone else's water right isn't infringed. ...

--- End quote ---

And this has just come home to roost in my county.

In brief: New water wells in parts of Benton County WA will require water meters, and water usage will be limited.

If you live in a water-poor area, you might expect to see something like this in your future.

The problem here is that too much water is being demanded from the Yakima River, and USGS has proven that the river water and nearby ground water are connected. Water rights (for river water) have long been established, and the concern is that ground water users are taking water that actually belongs to senior rightsholders for the river water.

Anyway, we've got new rules that go into effect Feb 1st. If you want to put in a new water well in any part of the county that drains into the Yakima River, you'll need to buy water rights from the county in the form of a "mitigation certificate". You'll also need to install a water meter that can be read via the cellphone network, pay an annual fee, and be subject to daily/annual usage limitations and possible curtailment during "extreme low water supply conditions".

The cheapest mitigation certificate (price still unknown) will let you use water not to exceed an average of 200 gal/day over 12 months, and a maximum of 675 gal on any given day, for indoor use only (no irrigation at all). This certificate is only available for properties inside an irrigation district, from which you are expected to buy your irrigation water.

If you're outside an irrigation district, you have a choice of Package B (300 gal/day avg, 1000 gal/day max, irrigated area not to exceed 1500 sq ft) or Package C (400 gal/day avg, 1300 gal/day max, irrigated area not to exceed 3000 sq ft). 3000 sq ft is 0.07 acres, so it will not be possible to have anything like a rural homestead in these areas.


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