This webpage is continually being updated as we develop informational materials and resources. Page last updated on 11/15/2023.
At the direction of the Washington State Legislature, the Washington State Department of Ecology is preparing to file a water rights adjudication in Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 1 Nooksack Basin. This includes the entire Nooksack River watershed as well as nearby Bellingham Bay, Birch Bay, Chuckanut, Drayton Harbor, Lake Whatcom, Lummi Bay, Point Roberts, and Sumas River watersheds, which comprise the majority of incorporated and unincorporated Whatcom County. A water rights adjudication is a legal process to quantify and prioritize water use, with highest priority given to the oldest, continuous water use (RCW 90.03). The Department of Ecology is planning to begin the adjudication in the spring of 2024 through Whatcom County Superior Court and will then notify all water users involved by certified mail. These water users will need to file a claim within one year of the adjudication filing to describe their water use, after which the court will inventory all legal water rights in order.
The Washington State Legislature is providing funding to Whatcom County to develop and implement outreach and provide filing assistance to the water users involved. Whatcom County Public Works is the department administering this assistance.
Whatcom County Public Works intends to host multiple meetings in 2024 in collaboration with the Department of Ecology. Meetings will vary by topic to focus on specific water users (for example, for those with home wells or small-scale farms). Meetings hosted by Whatcom County Public Works will be listed here.