General County News

Posted on: January 29, 2024

Water Adjudication Assistance Survey

Under Washington State law, water belongs to all the people of the state. A person or group may be granted a right to use water according to set terms, which include the volume, purpose, and place. This is referred to as a water right, the records of which are kept by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology). A person may also have a legal right to use water under a groundwater permit exemption. These wells are referred to as permit-exempt wells. No claim, permit, or certificate was needed for their use, and therefore these uses do not have a record.


Ecology is preparing to file a water rights adjudication in Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 1 in spring of 2024. 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. A water rights adjudication is a legal process to quantify and prioritize water use, with the highest priority given to the oldest, continuous use. Ecology will begin the adjudication through Whatcom County Superior Court and will notify all water users involved (water right holders and permit-exempt well users) by certified mail. These water users will need to describe their water use by filing a court claim within one year of the date indicated on the form. The court will then inventory all legal water rights in order.


Your input is needed!

The Washington State Legislature is providing funding to Whatcom County to develop and implement outreach and provide filing assistance to the water users involved. If you are a water user in WRIA 1, visit and take the survey to inform Whatcom County Public Works of the help you need.


Sign-up for Ecology’s WRIA 1 Adjudication E-newsletter

Use the Washington State Department of Ecology's Subscription Manager to sign up for the WRIA 1 - Nooksack Adjudication e-newsletter. Visit the Department of Ecology's WRIA 1 Adjudication Website or contact the Department of Ecology at 360-255-4406 or email [email protected] for more information.

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