History of Metering in Washington State

Measuring Water Use

Washington is no stranger to the idea of measuring water use. The requirements of installing measuring devices and recording water use has existed in Washington since the enactment of the water code in 1917.  Various water right adjudications have also resulted in the requirement to measure water use.  Updates to the water code (RCW 90.03.360) in 1993 required the measurement of all new surface water rights and for existing water rights that meet at least one of the following criteria:

Here is a timeline of events:







Metering Lawsuit – American Rivers et al vs. Department of Ecology

In March 1999, American Rivers, the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Washington Environmental Council, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources filed suit against Ecology for not complying with the 1993 water measuring law.  A summary judgment was filed in March 2000.  A summary judgment is a procedural tool that is used to settle a controversy without a trial.

In December 2000, the Thurston County Superior Court issued a final ruling in this case.  The court ordered Ecology to submit a Compliance Plan, which Ecology submitted on March 30, 2001.  It describes how Ecology intended to bring its water compliance program into line with the state water measuring law by December 31, 2002.

The March 2001 Compliance Plans calls for water right holders comprising the top 80 percent of total water use in 16 Fish Critical Basins to conform their measuring and reporting practices with the requirements of the new water measuring rule.  Most often, these water right holders included municipalities, public utility districts, and large agricultural operations, many of which already measured their water use.

Also in 2001, Chapter 173-173 WAC (Requirements for measuring and reporting water use) was created to replace the outdated 1969 Chapter 508-64 WAC (Measuring Devices for Water Diversion and Withdrawal Facilities).  WAC 173-173 detailed the requirements for measuring and reporting water use.  This set the basis for Ecology’s statewide metering program.

In accordance with the new Compliance Plan and Measuring Rule, beginning in 2002, metering and reporting Orders were mailed to water right holders identified as using 80% of the water in the fish critical watersheds.

Links to more information: