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Water Availability in Stream Basins Subject to Skagit Instream Flow Rule

Under rules adopted by the Department of Ecology, new exempt wells for single-family residences are now limited in most stream basins throughout Skagit County.

State law (RCW 19.27.097) prohibits the County from issuing a residential building permit unless the applicant can demonstrate they have a legal and adequate source of water, such as a water right from Washington State Department of Ecology, or a letter from an approved public water purveyor like Skagit PUD. If you own property in these stream basins, the closures may affect your ability to develop your property.

Washington State Ecology: Skagit River Instream Flow Rule

Statement Regarding Water Rights in Skagit River Basin (December 11, 2013)

Frequently-Asked Questions

Which basin is my parcel in?
To clearly identify your parcel, go to Skagit County's OneStop Property Search webpage and search by your address or parcel number.

Department of Ecology Maps: Lower Skagit River | Upper Skagit River

How can I get water for a new home in a closed basin?
You may have several options to supply water to your home. First, contact Skagit PUD or other nearby public water system to see if they can provide timely and reasonable water service to your property. You can find a list of public water systems in Skagit County at the State Department of Health web-site, DOH Public Water Systems. You may also contact Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1555 or

If a public water system is not available, there may be other alternatives that must be approved by Ecology.

Who regulates water?
Ground and surface water in Washington State belongs to the people of Washington State, not to any particular property owner. The State Department of Ecology manages water rights, which is a license for any particular water user to use the state's water.

Why do I need a water right to get a building permit?
State law empowers the County to issue you a building permit, but state law also requires that you demonstrate that you have a legal and adequate source of water before the County can issue the permit. You can demonstrate that water source in the form of a water right from the Washington State Department of Ecology, or as a letter from an approved public water system like Skagit PUD. Skagit County can't approve your right to use water.

Did the County agree in the 1996 MOA to give up the right of rural property owners to use well water?
No. The 1996 MOA requires new single-family homes to use public water where "timely and reasonable service is available." This is already a requirement of Skagit County Code. Furthermore, in section IV(D) on pages 11-12 of the 1996 MOA, "Skagit County reserves the right to allow exempt wells for single family systems in the Skagit River Basin above the PUD Pipeline Crossing." Skagit County also agreed in that section to "address the 5000 gallon permit exception" for wells. Skagit County did so by implementing Ecology's 2006 Instream Flow Rule Addendum. With the Supreme Court ruling striking down the 2006 Instream Flow Rule, everything reverts back to the original 2001 rule.

What Can You Do?

Individual affected property owners can contact the Department of Ecology or Skagit PUD to identify options for providing water to their property.

Department of Ecology

Ria Berns
NW Water Resources Section Manager
(425) 649-7270

John Rose
NW Water Resources Hydrogeologist
(425) 649-7230

Skagit Public Utility District

Kevin Tate
Community Relations Manager
(360) 848-4477

10th District
Senator Barbara Bailey
Rep. Norma Smith
Rep. Dave Hayes

39th District
Senator Kirk Pearson
Rep. Dan Kristiansen
Rep. Elizabeth Scott

40th District
Senator Kevin Ranker
Rep. Kristine Lytton
Rep. Jeff Morris