Upon the issuance by the department of an amendment to the appropriate permit or certificate of groundwater right, the holder of a valid right to withdraw public groundwaters may consolidate that right with a groundwater right exempt from the permit requirement under RCW 90.44.050
, without affecting the priority of either of the water rights being consolidated. Such a consolidation amendment shall be issued only after publication of a notice of the application, a comment period, and a determination made by the department, in lieu of meeting the conditions required for an amendment under RCW 90.44.100
, that: (1) The exempt well taps the same body of public groundwater as the well to which the water right of the exempt well is to be consolidated; (2) use of the exempt well shall be discontinued upon approval of the consolidation amendment to the permit or certificate; (3) legally enforceable agreements have been entered to prohibit the construction of another exempt well to serve the area previously served by the exempt well to be discontinued, and such agreements are binding upon subsequent owners of the land through appropriate binding limitations on the title to the land; (4) the exempt well or wells the use of which is to be discontinued will be properly decommissioned in accordance with chapter 18.104
RCW and the rules of the department; and (5) other existing rights, including ground and surface water rights and minimum streamflows adopted by rule, shall not be impaired. The notice shall be published by the applicant in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or counties in which the wells for the rights to be consolidated are located once a week for two consecutive weeks. The applicant shall provide evidence of the publication of the notice to the department. The comment period shall be for thirty days beginning on the date the second notice is published.
The amount of the water to be added to the holder's permit or certificate upon discontinuance of the exempt well shall be the average withdrawal from the well, in gallons per day, for the most recent five-year period preceding the date of the application, except that the amount shall not be less than eight hundred gallons per day for each residential connection or such alternative minimum amount as may be established by the department in consultation with the department of health, and shall not exceed five thousand gallons per day. The department shall presume that an amount identified by the applicant as being the average withdrawal from the well during the most recent five-year period is accurate if the applicant establishes that the amount identified for the use or uses of water from the exempt well is consistent with the average amount of water used for similar use or uses in the general area in which the exempt well is located. The department shall develop, in consultation with the department of health, a schedule of average household and small-area landscaping water usages in various regions of the state to aid the department and applicants in identifying average amounts used for these purposes. The presumption does not apply if the department finds credible evidence of nonuse of the well during the required period or credible evidence that the use of water from the exempt well or the intensity of the use of the land supported by water from the exempt well is substantially different than such uses in the general area in which the exempt well is located. The department shall also accord a presumption in favor of approval of such consolidation if the requirements of this subsection are met and the discontinuance of the exempt well is consistent with an adopted coordinated water system plan under chapter 70A.100
RCW, an adopted comprehensive land use plan under chapter 36.70A
RCW, or other comprehensive watershed management plan applicable to the area containing an objective of decreasing the number of existing and newly developed small groundwater withdrawal wells. The department shall provide a priority to reviewing and deciding upon applications subject to this subsection, and shall make its decision within sixty days of the end of the comment period following publication of the notice by the applicant or within sixty days of the date on which compliance with the state environmental policy act, chapter 43.21C
RCW, is completed, whichever is later. The applicant and the department may by prior mutual agreement extend the time for making a decision.