Critical water rights issue still not resolved

The Legislature’s failure to address a 2016 Washington State Supreme Court ruling known as the “Hirst” decision harms not only families wanting to build a home, but also our overall state economy.

As a refresher, the ruling changed how building permits are issued when the home relies on a small private well for water. The ruling made it difficult, if not impossible, for the applicant and property owner to drill a new well and therefore receive the proper permits to build a home.

In the Senate, we passed a bill that would address the situation by continuing the state’s long-standing policy of exempting these small household wells from more burdensome requirements, given their minimal impact on water availability. However, our colleagues in the House of Representatives have refused to vote on this or any other measure that would bring relief.

Although negotiations continue, we’ve yet to make meaningful progress on this issue, which affects many Washingtonians in rural areas, including those who already own land and were attempting to build.

We recently gained a better understanding of the broader impact this has on our state’s economy through lost construction jobs, lower property values and reduced tax revenues. Click here to read the full study.

This comes at a time when rural Washington is already facing much higher unemployment rates than the Puget Sound area, and continues a disturbing pattern of state decisions and policy choices that harm our rural communities – a trend I’ll discuss more in my next email update.