Meeting the needs of people and the natural environment

Rural Water Supply Solutions

In the past few years, Ecology’s Water Resources Program formed two workgroups with representatives from agencies, Tribes, and a variety of stakeholder groups to develop guidance and explore water resource management options.  The goal of these efforts is to legally and sustainably meet Washington’s existing and future water needs for people, farms, and fish.  Although the groups have been unsuccessful in reaching agreement on the best ways to manage this vital resource, the results of these discussions may help inform future decision-making.

In many areas of both eastern and western Washington State, all the water on hand during late summer and early fall is already spoken for, and a reliable water supply for new uses is no longer available.  The workgroup explored numerous options for supplying water to new development lacking access to a public water system in these water-short areas.  The benefits and disadvantages of each option identified are compiled in the Rural Water Supply Solutions report.  The final report includes a recent Ecology report on Mitigation Options for Permit-Exempt Wells as an appendix.  For more information, contact or

Guidance for Making Water Availability Determinations

Local agencies making land use decisions, such as approving subdivisions and issuing building permits, are responsible for determining that adequate water supplies are available—legally and physically—to serve the new development.  The purpose of the Guidance for Making Water Availability Determinations, still under development, is to help local governments make these determinations, and replaces the 1993 Guidelines (see link under “Resources” below).  Contact or (360) 407-6450 for more information.


The documents and websites linked below were considered and are supplemental to the collaboration efforts.

Recent court decisions related to rural water supply

Other resources

Rural Water Supply - Projects

The following links are to information that illustrate what is being done in some areas of the state to address water supply issues: