Understanding Washington Water Law

Our challenge is to share our water supply and to use it efficiently and carefully so there is enough for everyone and everything that depends on it.  How we collectively resolve competing needs is critical. Whether we know it or not, we are all – each and every one of us – water managers.

The following links to publications and web pages are provided to assist you with answers to questions you may have.

Washington Water Law

Water Rights

Ground Water Permit Exemption

Instream Flow

State Water Use Laws: Compliance and Enforcement

Water is vital to our daily activities.  How we use water affects all of us – our neighbors, businesses, farms, and the environment.  Growth in residential development, business, and agriculture has increased competition for water.  Dwindling salmon stocks and their listing under the Endangered Species Act have heightened concern about excessive water use and compliance with water resources laws.

Laws regulating water use are not new.  Even when Washington’s population was small and water demand was low, there was recognition that water use required regulation to reduce conflicts among competing water users and to protect the resource.  The Legislature established the Surface Water Code in 1917, the Groundwater Code in 1945, and added provisions addressing water for fish and wildlife in 1949.