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Clallam County “Outdoor” Water Use – Limited or Forbidden by WA State Dept. of Ecology

by Sue Forde for
Citizen Review Online

Posted 12/26/2012

Clallam County, WA – Now that the Washington State Department of Ecology’s (DOE’s) water “rule” is in effect, those people living in the rural areas or who hope to have a garden or animals, may be out of luck.  At the very least, their water supply will be extremely limited and require a “mitigation” fee to even be able to use it.  In addition, there will be an added expense of placing a water “meter” on their wells.


What impacts the new “rule” will have on the rural areas of Clallam County remains to be seen; however, if one considers that it may become unaffordable or even “forbidden” to start a garden or acquire horses, goats, sheep, cows or chickens – any living animal or fowl that might need to get a drink of water, it will definitely have an adverse and costly one.


All in the name of saving the “river” and the “fish”, almost 20 years of pushing forward despite large numbers of people who actually live on the Olympic Peninsula showing up at meeting after meeting held by DOE, who – when confronted – each time assured the public they did not intend to “meter the wells”.  Wells drillers, biologists and other experts testified time and again that wells do not make a significant difference in the water levels of the river.  Or, as the DOE puts in (on their website –, by Lynne Geller, “The rule comes out of many years of working with the community, tribes, and local and state governments. It includes many recommendations from the 2005 Elwha-Dungeness Watershed Plan, which obligated Ecology to adopt a water management rule.”


One has to raise the question, then, what is the real purpose of this new “rule”?  And since when are the “people” being run by “rules” created by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, rather than by “laws” passed by elected and accountable representatives?


A “mitigation plan” was prepared by an independent organization, the “Washington Water Exchange” and their “contractor” – Ecosystem Economics, and approved by the DOE, per their “Rule”.  (WAC 173-518-075).


According to the approval letter dated Dec. 3, 2012, the plan was prepared for the “Dungeness Water Exchange” to “restore flows on the…Dungeness River” and provide “mitigation for new permit-exempt well users as well as new groundwater right permits as mitigation credits are available”.


According to the DOE’s website (, author Lynne Geller states:  “As of January 2, 2013, all new water uses in the Dungeness watershed (Water Resources Inventory Area [WRIA] 18) must be measured. This applies to surface and groundwater uses, including well uses under the groundwater permit exemption. Water users are required to install a meter to record and report their water use. The metering requirement applies to existing users with water rights. Existing permit-exempt well users do not fall under this requirement.”


Further, on, Geller states: “Effective January 2, 2013, the Dungeness watershed will have a new water management rule (Chapter 173-518 WAC). The rule affects those who start new uses of water (including expansion of an existing water use) on or after the January 2013 effective date.”


Initial “mitigation” fees have been determined.  For “indoor only” use of water, a fee of $1,000 will be charged; for “Basic Outdoor” water use, a fee of $2,000; and for “Extended Outdoor” use, a fee of $3,000, all “depending on your ‘impact’”. At least initially.  Their documents state that these amounts may be subject to change, if they find they need to charge more.


The price you will pay, if you need to buy a “Basic Outdoor” package, or an “Extended Outdoor” package, depends on the mitigation calculator, and where, and how deep, your well will be. It looks like, for either package, you will be allowed 150 gallons per day.


In the Basic Outdoor, you’ll be allowed to irrigate 2500 square feet, or 0.06 acre. With the Extended outdoor, you’ll be allowed to irrigate up to 5,625 square feet, or .13 acre. This is for an irrigated lawn. There are irrigation calculations for other uses, which are currently unavailable.  The Washington Water Trust is in charge–at least, initially.


These packages will be recorded with the Deed to a person’s real estate.


In addition to paying “mitigation” fees, a meter will have to be placed on the well at the expense of the owner, to measure and be “sure” the water “limits” are not being exceed.  So far, the ramifications for going over the limit on the “allowed” water usage has not been specified.


The Water Metering Specifications are also linked there, and here:


How will Ecology police the new Rule – and what will be any fines or penalties?  Although the penalties for “noncompliance” are not yet determined (that I can find), here is how they intend to “police” to be sure citizens are in compliance:

“To make this assessment, the Exchange may conduct the following types of baseline and
monitoring activities:
… as necessary, conduct a site visit in order to record any existing outdoor uses on the site …
…conduct annual monitoring via site visit, aerial photography, remote sensing, meter readings or other
appropriate methods in order to verify that the acreage irrigated under the exempt well is equal to or
less than that specified in the chosen mitigation package”
The question one might pose is what would happen if the citizen refuses entry to their property.

The County Commissioners will be putting together a forum in January 2013, to review the new “Rules”, and walk people through the steps. Ecology and the Washington Water Trust will provide handouts.

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