UPDATE: HIRST FIXED
The Washington State House and Senate reached a deal and passed SB 6091 on January 18, 2018, which fixes the 2016 Washington State Supreme Court ruling known as the Hirst decision. Governor Inslee signed the Hirst fix legislation at 12:25 p.m. on January 19, 2018.
SB 6091 includes:
- Local governments can once again rely on Ecology as the state’s resource manager.
- 3,000 gallons per day per connection for domestic wells in certain basins with existing watershed planning.
- In certain basins without watershed planning, household wells could withdraw 950 gallons per day per connection. This would change to 350 gallons per day for indoor use only in drought conditions. However, outdoor use would be permitted for fire buffers. Water enhancement and restoration committees will also be created for these local basins. These committees will invest $300 million dollars into improving the state’s water resource.
The Hirst fix signed into law provides a solid solution for families, businesses and rural communities in Washington.
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.