WSR 09-16-075



[ Order 09-08 -- Filed July 31, 2009, 8:54 a.m. , effective July 31, 2009, 8:54 a.m. ]

Effective Date of Rule: Immediately.

Purpose: This fifth emergency rule establishes a partial withdrawal of groundwater within a portion of WRIA 39 in Kittitas County, Washington. The partial withdrawal and restrictions are designed to prevent new uses of water that negatively affect flows in the Yakima River and its tributaries. The withdrawal allows for continued development using the groundwater exemption or new permits when the new consumptive use is mitigated by one or more pre-1905 water rights held by ecology in the trust water right program of equal or greater consumptive quantity. Withdrawals of groundwater for structures for which building permit applications were vested prior to July 16, 2009, shall be allowed but shall be subject to curtailment. This emergency rule supersedes the one filed on July 16, 2009, WSR 09-15-107.

Statutory Authority for Adoption: RCW 90.54.050.

Other Authority: Chapter 43.27A RCW.

Under RCW 34.05.350 the agency for good cause finds that immediate adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule is necessary for the preservation of the public health, safety, or general welfare, and that observing the time requirements of notice and opportunity to comment upon adoption of a permanent rule would be contrary to the public interest.

Reasons for this Finding: The Yakima Basin is one of the state's most water-short areas. Water rights with priority dates as old as 1905 were shut off during the 2001 and 2005 droughts, and during 2004 when USBR prorated May 10, 1905, water rights. The town of Roslyn's municipal supply and another 133 single domestic, group domestic, and municipal water systems throughout the basin are subject to curtailment when USBR prorates the May 10, 1905, water rights. Water supply in the Yakima Basin is limited and over-appropriated. Western portions of Kittitas County are experiencing rapid growth and this growth is being largely served by exempt wells. Exempt wells in this area may negatively affect the flow of the Yakima River or its tributaries.

Number of Sections Adopted in Order to Comply with Federal Statute: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; Federal Rules or Standards: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; or Recently Enacted State Statutes: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted at Request of a Nongovernmental Entity: New 10, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted on the Agency's Own Initiative: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted in Order to Clarify, Streamline, or Reform Agency Procedures: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted Using Negotiated Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; Pilot Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; or Other Alternative Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Date Adopted: July 31, 2009.

Jay J. Manning


by Polly Zehm


Chapter 173-539A WAC


WAC 173-539A-010   Purpose.   The purpose of this rule is to withdraw from appropriation all unappropriated ground water within upper Kittitas County during the pendency of a ground water study. New ground water withdrawals will be limited to those that are water budget neutral, as defined in this rule.


WAC 173-539A-020   Authority.   RCW 90.54.050 provides that when lacking enough information to support sound decisions, ecology may withdraw waters of the state from new appropriations until sufficient information is available. Before withdrawing waters of the state, ecology must consult with standing committees of the legislature on water management. Further, RCW 90.44.050 authorizes ecology to establish metering requirements for exempt wells where needed.

In 1999, ecology imposed an administrative moratorium on issuing any ground water permits for new consumptive uses in the Yakima basin, which includes Kittitas County. That moratorium did not apply to exempt withdrawals. In 2007, ecology received a petition seeking unconditional withdrawal of all unappropriated ground water in Kittitas County until enough is known about potential effects from new exempt wells on senior water rights and stream flows. Ecology consulted with standing committees of the Washington state legislature on the petition and proposed withdrawal. Ecology rejected the proposed unconditional withdrawal, and instead signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Kittitas County. Ecology later invoked the dispute resolution process under the MOA. The MOA was terminated by ecology on July 1, 2009.


WAC 173-539A-030   Definitions.   The definitions provided below are intended to be used only for this chapter.

"Consumptive use" of a proposed withdrawal is the total depletion that the withdrawal has on any affected surface water bodies.

"Ecology" means the department of ecology.

"Exemption" or "ground water exemption" means the exemption from the permit requirement for a withdrawal of ground water provided under RCW 90.44.050.

"Total water supply available" means the amount of water available in any year from natural flow of the Yakima River, and its tributaries, from storage in the various government reservoirs on the Yakima watershed and from other sources, to supply the contract obligations of the United States to deliver water and to supply claimed rights to the use of water on the Yakima River, and its tributaries, heretofore recognized by the United States.

"Upper Kittitas County" is the area of Kittitas County delineated in WAC 173-539A-990.

"Water budget neutral project" means an appropriation or project where withdrawals of ground water of the state are proposed in exchange for discharge of water from other water rights that are placed into the trust water right program where such discharge is at least equivalent to the amount of consumptive use.


WAC 173-539A-040   Withdrawal of unappropriated water in upper Kittitas County.   (1) Beginning on the effective date of this rule, all public ground waters within the upper Kittitas County are withdrawn from appropriation. No new appropriation or withdrawal of ground water shall be allowed, including those exempt from permitting, except:

(a) Uses of ground water for a structure for which a building permit is granted and the building permit application vested prior to July 16, 2009; and

(b) Uses determined to be water budget neutral pursuant to WAC 173-539A-050. Consumptive use will be calculated using the following assumptions: Thirty percent of domestic in-house use on a septic system is consumptively used; ninety percent of outdoor use is consumptively used; twenty percent of domestic in-house use that is treated through a wastewater treatment plant which discharges to surface water is consumptively used.

(2) The exception for water used at structures provided in subsection (1)(a) of this section shall not apply or cease to apply if the structure is not completed and a water system that uses the new appropriation is not operable within the time allowed under the building permit, which may not in any case exceed three years from the date the permit application vested. The exception does not reflect ecology's view on when the priority date for an exempt water right commences and is established only to avoid potential hardship. All new withdrawals may be subject to future curtailment due to conflicts with senior water rights, and all users without senior trust water rights are advised to obtain mitigation through senior trust water rights to avoid such curtailment.


WAC 173-539A-050   Water budget neutral projects.   (1) Persons proposing to use ground water shall apply to ecology for a permit to appropriate public ground water or, if seeking to use the ground water exemption, shall submit to ecology a request for determination that the proposed exempt use would be water budget neutral.

(2) As part of a permit application to appropriate public ground water or a request for a determination of water budget neutrality, applicants or requestors shall include the following information:

(a) Identification of one or more water rights that would be placed into the trust water right program to offset the consumptive use associated with the proposed new use of ground water;

(b) A site map;

(c) The area to be irrigated (in acres);

(d) A soil report, if proposed discharge is to a septic system and the applicant or requestor proposes to deviate from the values in WAC 173-539A-040 (1)(b);

(e) A property covenant that restricts or prohibits trees or shrubs over the septic drain field; and

(f) A copy of the sewer utility agreement, if the proposed wastewater discharge is to a sanitary sewer system.

(3) Applications for public ground water or requests for a determination of water budget neutrality will be processed concurrent with trust water right applications necessary to achieve water budget neutrality, unless:

(a) A suitable trust water right is already held by the state in the trust water right program; and

(b) The applicant or requestor has executed an agreement to designate a portion of the trust water right for mitigation of the applicant's proposed use.

(4) Applications to appropriate public ground water or requests for determination of water budget neutrality that do not include the information listed in subsection (2) of this section will be rejected and returned to the applicant.

(5) To the extent that ecology determines that the mitigation offered would not reliably mitigate to be water budget neutral, ecology may deny the request or limit its approval to a lesser amount.

(6) Unless accepted by WAC 173-539A-040 (1)(a), no new exempt withdrawal under RCW 90.44.050 may be commenced unless ecology has approved a request for determination that the proposed exempt use would be water budget neutral. Such a request must comply with subsections (2) and (3) of this section.


WAC 173-539A-060   Expedited processing of trust water applications, and new water right applications or requests for a determination of water budget neutrality associated with trust water rights.   (1) RCW 90.38.040 authorizes ecology to use the trust water right program for water banking purposes within the Yakima River Basin.

(2) Ecology may expedite the processing of an application for a new surface water right, a request for a determination of water budget neutrality, or a ground water right hydraulically related to the Yakima River, under Water Resources Program Procedures PRO-1000, Chapter One, including any amendments thereof, if the following requirements are met:

(a) The application or request must identify an existing trust water right or pending application to place a water right in trust, and that such trust water right would have an equal or greater contribution to flow during the irrigation season, as measured on the Yakima River at Parker that would serve to mitigate the proposed use. This trust water right must have priority earlier than May 10, 1905, and be eligible to be used for instream flow protection and mitigation of out-of-priority uses.

(b) The proposed use on the new application or request must be for domestic, group domestic, lawn or noncommercial garden, municipal water supply, stock watering, or industrial purposes of use within the Yakima River Basin. The proposed use must be consistent with any agreement governing the use of the trust water right.

(3) If an application for a new water right or a request for a determination of water budget neutrality is eligible for expedited processing under subsection (2) of this section and is based upon one or more pending applications to place one or more water rights in trust, processing of the pending trust water right application(s) shall also be expedited.

(4) Upon determining that the application or request is eligible for expedited processing, ecology will do the following:

(a) Review the application or request to withdraw ground water to ensure that ground water is available from the aquifer without detriment or injury to existing rights, considering the mitigation offered.

(b) Condition the permit or determination to ensure that existing water rights, including instream flow water rights, are not impaired if the trust water right is from a different source or located downstream of the proposed diversion or withdrawal. The applicant or requestor also has the option to change their application to prevent the impairment. If impairment cannot be prevented, ecology must deny the permit or determination.

(c) Condition each permit or determination to ensure that the tie to the trust water right is clear, and that any constraints in the trust water right are accurately reflected.

(d) Condition or otherwise require that the trust water right will serve as mitigation for impacts to "total water supply available."


WAC 173-569A-070   Measuring and reporting water use.   (1) For all uses of the ground water exemption for residential purposes within upper Kittitas County that commence after July 8, 2008, a meter must be installed for each residential connection or each source well that serves multiple residential connections in compliance with such requirements as prescribed in WAC 173-173-100.

(2) Metering data must be collected and reported within thirty days of the end of the recording period to ecology. The following table shows the recording periods and the due dates for each metering report:

Recording Period Report Due No Later Than:
October 1 - March 31 April 30
April 1 - June 30 July 30
July 1 - July 31 August 30
August 1 - August 31 September 30
September 1 - September 30 October 30


WAC 173-539A-080   Educational information, technical assistance and enforcement.   (1) To help the public comply with this chapter, ecology may prepare and distribute technical and educational information on the scope and requirements of this chapter.

(2) When ecology finds that a violation of this rule has occurred, we shall first attempt to achieve voluntary compliance. One approach is to offer information and technical assistance to the person, in writing, identifying one or more means to legally carry out the person's purposes.

(3) To obtain compliance and enforce this chapter, ecology may impose such sanctions as suitable, including, but not limited to, issuing regulatory orders under RCW 43.27A.190 and imposing civil penalties under RCW 90.03.600.


WAC 173-539A-090   Appeals.   All of ecology's final written decisions pertaining to permits, regulatory orders, and other related decisions made under this chapter are subject to review by the pollution control hearings board in accordance with chapter 43.21B RCW.


WAC 173-539A-990   Appendix 1 -- Map of upper Kittitas County boundaries.  


Washington State Code Reviser's Office