In Their Own Words
“I can’t do anything with this property. I’m still making payments on it. I’ve got all my money and the world wrapped up in this. This is my whole future.”
— Whatcom County resident on Hirst's impacts,
The Seattle Times,
December 10, 2016
The Hirst decision, as it is known, stems from a court ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court on Whatcom County v. Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board in 2016. In it, the court essentially changed state law for anyone that wants to put a new home on rural property and planned to use a well as their main water source.
Prior to the decision, a well was allowed under the law if a home used less than 5,000 gallons a day. In fact, home owners use far less. The Department of Ecology reports domestic well use is about 1% of total consumptive water use in Washington.
Now, under this ruling, anyone that wants to build a new home on rural property must prove water use won't extract one drop of water (referred to as the "one molecule" standard) from bodies of water within the area, such as streams and rivers. So far, the only option is to conduct costly, complicated surveys to find the answer and no or limited mitigation solutions are currently allowed to offset water use.
Critically, this decision has created economic hardship for families and small businesses and brought home building and investment in rural communities to a standstill.
Washington's growing towns need an achievable pathway to secure water for growth into the future. Fixing the Hirst and Foster court decisions will create that path.
A solution is needed now for families, businesses and rural communities in Washington. Fix Hirst.
Tell Your Legislator to Fix Hirst
A lack of water access in rural areas is causing harm to Washington families, small businesses and small towns across the state. Contact your legislators and let them know you want a solution to Hirst.