As part of the Department of Ecology’s ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency of its water management services, the Water Resources Program has posted a new water right map on its Web site providing convenient access to water right information throughout Washington State. Now anyone with a personal computer can locate and research water rights on land parcels anywhere in the state. The Webmap provides direct public access through a geographical interface to Ecology’s voluminous records of water rights and claims. The Statewide Water Resources Webmap provides information on over 230,000 active water right and claim records in the Water Resources Program database, many that have been in existence since the late 1800s.
The Water Resources Program has been using Geographic Information System (GIS) computer software to map the location of water rights and claims since 1993, and scanning and converting water right documents on microfilm to electronic images since 1999.
As of June 2015 about 62% of the water right documents have been mapped using GIS. Mapped water rights provide the user with a graphical representation of the place of use and point of withdrawal/diversion by using colored boundary lines and dots. The mapping of water rights is a work in progress and its development will continue as staff and budget constraints allow. Ecology plans to complete mapping of all water rights in Washington State by 2025, based on 1% mapped per quarter for ten years.
Centroids are being used for the remaining 38% of water rights that have not yet been mapped using GIS. A centroid is the center point of a geographical area and represents the center point of the Public Land Survey System subdivision where a water right is located. The accuracy of a centroid will depend on whether the centroid represents the center of the section (640 acres, or one square mile), quarter section (160 acres) or quarter-quarter section (40 acres) describing a water right location.
Centroids should not be construed as representing the actual location. Centroids are used to illustrate the vicinity of unmapped water right device points and does not represent water rights mapped using GIS. Also, when a query returns a centroid dot on the map, the dot is most likely to relate to more than one water right document. Centroid colors are mainly purple, green and red squares, (see layers tab in the left hand top corner of the Web Map for more details).
For example, if an unmapped water right withdrawal location is only known to fall within Township 20N, Range 3E and Section 10, the centroid will represent the center point a 640-acre square, where the point of withdrawal is located. The distance between the centroid and the point of withdrawal may be as much as seven-tenths of a mile away. If the centroid represents the center of a quarter or quarter-quarter Section, the distance between the centroid and actual location is likely to be closer. If the centroid represents the center of a section, there could be many documents that use that location information as the only way to find them on the map.
The Quantity Report section allows users to search for all water right information that is maintained in the Water Right Tracking System (WRTS). Water right records can be searched using the Quantity Report by location, document/record number, or by the name of the person the water right was issued to (or the name of the claimant, if it is a water right claim). Once the search information is entered and submitted, a list of documents that meet the criteria will be displayed. If you want, you can click on a listed document and the Web map will activate and show the location on the map.