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Last updated 02/07/2017
A recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling has changed how counties review permit-exempt (household) wells for building permits under the Growth Management Act (GMA). Contact your county government to learn more about how this decision may affect you.
In the Whatcom County vs. Hirst, Futurewise, et al. decision (often referred to as the Hirst decision), the court ruled that the county failed to comply with GMA requirements to protect water resources. The ruling requires the county to make an independent decision about legal water availability. The case directly relates to Whatcom County but appears to set legal precedent that applies in other counties where there are instream flow rules that were not intended to regulate permit-exempt water uses. It is unclear how the decision affects areas of the state where there are no instream flow rules. Counties are working to review the decision and what it means for them. Anyone who intends to develop their property, including those landowners who have a well but haven’t yet obtained a building permit, should contact their county to determine how the county is responding to the court decision.
To learn more about permit-exempt wells and instream flow rules, please visit our Understanding the Whatcom County vs. Hirst, Futurewise, et al. page.
Upon request of county government staff, we are creating interactive maps to assist them in determining legal domestic water availability in their communities. The maps show where water is closed to new uses and areas where instream flows are not being met, based on our analyses.
These maps are intended to be general guidance. Landowners looking for information about how the Hirst decision affects them should contact their county.
Whatcom, Skagit and Pierce county maps are currently available. Maps of other counties may be added, as requested by county governments to assist their decision-making.
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