Broker Alert – Hirst Water Supply Legislation Passes

Broker Alert - On January 19, 2018, the Legislature passed SB 6091, which was immediately signed into law by Governor Inslee. This legislation reversed the State Supreme Court’s October 2016 Hirst & Futurewise v. Whatcom County water rights/Growth Management Act decision.


On January 19, 2018, the Legislature passed SB 6091, which was immediately signed into law by Governor Inslee.  This legislation reversed the State Supreme Court’s October 2016 Hirst & Futurewise v. Whatcom County water rights/Growth Management Act decision.  Under SB 6091, local governments are no longer required to review new private wells for “impairment” of other water rights or state instream flows.  In addition, the new law clarifies that local governments may rely on or refer to Department of Ecology’s water resource regulations in order to comply with the Growth Management Act.

The Hirst legislation continues the trend that water supply requirements for building permits and subdivisions will vary by county and watershed.  Under SB 6091, rules adopted by Ecology in certain basins will continue to govern water availability, while in other basins, water availability will be based on the statutory provisions of SB 6091. 

The new law included an emergency clause, and so took effect immediately.  Counties and cities are now in the process of implementing the new law, so brokers should get specific information from local governments.  REALTORS® should also be aware that whether water supply is available for a building permit or subdivision is a legal determination.   Under the Real Estate Agency Law, RCW Chapter 18.86, brokers should advise their clients who need assistance to seek legal counsel or review by a qualified consultant. 

Ecology recently issued a statewide summary of water availability requirements after the passage of SB 6091.  Please see the attached 1-page summary and map for further information on water availability provisions by watershed in Washington State.  

Hirst Bill - Dept of Ecology Summary and Map (including a summary and map of water availability requirements around the state).

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