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Laws and Rules


Apply to Change or Transfer a Water Right or Claim

Note: An October 2016 Washington State Supreme Court case impacts permit-exempt well use, which may affect some of the information provided on this page.

With much of our water already allocated in Washington State, new water rights are increasingly difficult to obtain.  As a result, more and more people are choosing to make changes to existing water rights. Ecology may consider changes to the following elements of an existing water right permit, certificate, or claim: 

Before you apply, talk to us.

Many applicants have been waiting years to receive a decision on their request.  Additionally, water is no longer available for new users in many areas of the state.  Before you spend money and effort to prepare a water right application, we strongly encourage you to contact the region office for the proposed location for the water use so that we can discuss your water supply needs, processing options and permitting timelines.  Application fees are nonrefundable.

For complex projects, we may recommend that you participate in a more formal consultation with our permitting staff.  To prepare for that meeting, we will ask you to complete a pre-application request form below.  Any applicant may request to meet with our permitting staff before filing an application.

If you contact us by email, please include the following information in your message:

  1. The applicant name and the name of any other authorized representatives
  2. Project location county and county parcel number
  3. Water source – ground or surface water and named source if known and the location of the source
  4. Purpose – irrigation, municipal, group domestic, recreation, etc.
  5. E-mail address
  6. Phone number
  7. The best time to contact you
Northwest Region - Bellevue
Counties:  Island, King, Kitsap, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom

Office: 425-649-7020
Office location and address
Southwest Region - Lacey
Counties:  Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Mason, Lewis, Pacific, Pierce, Skamania, Thurston and Wahkiakum

Office: 360-407-6859
Office location and address

Central Region - Union Gap
Counties: Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, Klickitat, Okanogan, and Yakima

Office: 509-575-2597
Office location and address

Eastern Region - Spokane
Counties:  Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla and Whitman

Office: 509-329-3541
Office location and address

Pre-application Consultation

Before you spend money and effort to prepare a water right change application, we strongly encourage you to engage in pre-application consultation with our staff.  We want to understand your water supply needs.  We want to give you our perspective on risks, opportunities and alternatives.  Application fees are nonrefundable.  We would rather you didn't spend this money if the likelihood of getting a water right change is low.  Where water is still available, we would like to offer recommendations for making your proposal successful.  That may require you to provide certain information, analyses and studies, and propose mitigation.

To initiate a pre-application consultation, do the following:

Step 1. Complete and submit the pre-application form

  1. Download and complete the Pre-Application Consultation Form. Do your best to complete all sections of the form and we will discuss any incomplete sections at the pre-application consultation meeting.
  2. E-mail the completed form to If you cannot e-mail to us, mail the completed form to the appropriate regional office.
  3. Wait for Ecology to contact you to schedule a pre-application meeting or phone call if you can't travel to a regional office.  Our goal is to contact you within 2-3 business days.  At that time, Ecology will schedule an appointment for your consultation

Step 2. Prepare for and attend the pre-application consultation meeting or phone call

  1. Be prepared to discuss the proposal in detail and ask any questions you have about the water right application process.  The purpose of the meeting is for us to learn more about your proposed project and to provide you with information about:
  1. Bring any professional staff (e.g., engineers, hydrogeologists or attorneys) whom you feel are necessary to address technical questions which Ecology staff may have.

Step 3. After the pre-application conference, decide what your best option is to apply for the water you need

  1. Evaluate whether a water right permit is your best option for meeting your water supply needs.

  2. Make sure you understand which water application process is best suited to the timeline of your project.

  3. Submit the appropriate application.  Ecology requires a minimum non-refundable $50.00 fee for most applications.  To estimate the fee that may be required visit our Fee Estimator web page.