Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 2009 NO. 6 > Sep 21 2009

1.      The statutory exemption from the permitting requirement for use in watering lawns and noncommercial gardens is not included within the exemption for domestic use.  2.      The Department of Ecology lacks the authority to impose lower or different limits on exempt withdrawals of groundwater than are provided in statute by “partially withdrawing” the waters from additional appropriation.  3.      The authority of the Department of Ecology to withdraw waters from new appropriations applies to both permitted and permit-exempt uses of groundwater.  4.      The Interlocal Cooperation Act is not an independent source of agency authority.

AGO 1997 NO. 6 > Oct 10 1997

1.Where a property owner wishes to develop land and supply the development with domestic water from several wells, and each well will pump less than 5000 gallons per day but all the wells together will pump more than 5000 gallons per day, the project is a single withdrawal of ground water and is not exempt from the permit requirements of chapters 90.44 and 90.03 RCW.2.There is no statutory provision for intertying, pursuant to RCW 90.03.383, water systems deriving from ground water withdrawals which were exempt from permitting pursuant to RCW 90.44.050; the intertie statute could be applied if the exempt withdrawals applied for a permit, or were consolidated (pursuant to Laws of 1997, ch. 446) with another water right with a permit or certificate.3.If the owner of a water right deriving from an exempt ground water withdrawal applies for a permit for the withdrawal pursuant to RCW 90.44.050, the Department of Ecology would apply the four-element test contained in RCW 90.03.290 in deciding whether to grant a permit.4.There is no statutory or other lawful basis for issuing a water rights certificate to the holder of a water right based on an exempt ground water withdrawal, unless either (1) the owner of the right applies for and receives a permit or (2) the exempt right is first consolidated with a right covered by a permit or certificate.5.There is no current statutory authority for transferring a water right deriving from an exempt ground water withdrawal to a different place of use and/or a different purpose of use pursuant to RCW 90.44.100, RCW 90.03.380 and related laws, unless (1) the owner of the right applies for and receives a permit or (2) the exempt right is first consolidated with a right covered by a permit or certificate.

AGO 2005 NO. 17 > Nov 18 2005

RCW 90.44.050 exempts withdrawals of groundwater for stock-watering purposes from the permitting requirement, without setting a numeric limit on the quantity of water withdrawn.  2. The Department of Ecology does not have authority to impose a categorical limit on the quantity of groundwater that may be withdrawn for stock-watering without a permit. In certain circumstances, the Department of Ecology’s statutory authority to regulate the use of water may affect or limit such withdrawals, just as it may affect or limit withdrawals for other purposes.3. An agency may not alter its interpretation of a statute in a manner that is inconsistent with statutory language and legislative intent to address changed societal conditions.

AGO 2006 NO. 17 > Sep 25 2006

1. In reviewing a water conservancy board record of decision concerning a water right transfer application, the Department of Ecology is not limited to reviewing the record established by the water conservancy board but may base its decision upon an independent factual investigation. 2. In reviewing a water conservancy board record of decision concerning a water right transfer application, the Department of Ecology is not required to: 1) defer to the water conservancy board’s findings of fact, or 2) defer to the board’s interpretation of the law. 3. A water conservancy board, in making a decision concerning a water right transfer application, is not legally required to follow policies or guidelines of the Department of Ecology which have not been adopted as statutes or administrative rules; however, the Department of Ecology may refer to and follow its own policies or guidelines in reviewing the local board’s decision.