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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.
Water right records can be searched on the Web map by 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). The Web map provides information that until now was accessible only by contacting staff in the Water Resources Program, through the public disclosure process, or through individual research in an Ecology office.
The Web map is an efficient tool for anyone researching water rights or water right claims, or seeking to obtain a water right in Washington State. Consultants, real estate agents, local government workers, elected officials, and holders of existing water rights will find the map a valuable source of information.
The Web map section and/or quantity report section allows users to query and view data and documents relating to water rights and claims. This includes, if completed, the mapped place of water use and water sources (existing and proposed) for water right certificates, water use permits, applications for water use, and claims of water use as described on the documents maintained by Ecology.
Links to water right documents allow the user access to scanned images of water resource documents that include:
Currently about 53% 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 lines and dots. (Look at Whatcom County or the main stem of the Columbia River for completed areas in the state to see what this looks like.) 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 2017, based on 2% mapped per quarter for seven years.
Centroids are being used for the remaining 47% 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.
If you need assistance with your research you can fill out and submit this form to the proper regional office:
Here are some links to maps and information to help you find your location. Location is a key step towards success when using the interactive map and quantity report sections:
What is a water right and what kind of documents can I expect to find when I am searching?
The Department of Ecology's Water Resources Program maintains for the State of Washington various documents and records related to existing or requested water rights and water claims. Water Right Data, Application Data, Claim Data, and Document Images released from the Department of Ecology are provided on an “AS IS” basis, without warranty of any kind.
All private citizen names and addresses obtained from a state database may not be used for any solicitation/commercial purpose.
Water Resources Program Contacts - includes contact information for Water Resources Program staff at Headquarters and the Regional Offices