RAPID/Hydropower/Washington/Water Access & Rights

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Washington Hydropower Water Access & Water Rights(19-WA)

In Washington, a hydropower developer may need a New Water Right Permit from the Washington State Department of Ecology (Department of Ecology) to withdraw or divert and make beneficial use of public surface or groundwaters of the state. A developer may also need a certificate or permit from the Washington State Department of Ecology (Department of Ecology) or local water conservancy board to transfer or change an existing water right. Additionally, a developer proposing to change or transfer a water right may elect to file a water right change or transfer with a water conservancy board, if a board has been created for the geographic area where the water is or would be diverted, withdrawn, or used. A developer may also need a Reservoir Permit from the Washington Department of Ecology (Department of Ecology) to construct an impoundment and store water, for beneficial use, in a reservoir more than ten (10) acre-feet in volume or if it is ten (10) or more feet deep at its deepest point. Lastly, a developer may need to obtain a Hydraulic Project Approval (“HPA”) from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (“WDFW”) for “any construction or performance of work that uses, diverts, obstructs, or changes the natural flow or bed of any fresh water or saltwater in the state…”

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Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.


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Permitting at a Glance

Water Right Classification: Prior Appropriation
Water Right Agency: Washington Department of Ecology
Is a Water Right Required for the Project? A project may need a water right or other approval from the Washington Department of Ecology or a local conservancy board if the project requires a consumptive use of surface or groundwater. The Washington Department of Ecology only grants water rights for beneficial use.
Defined Terms: "Beneficial use" includes, but is not limited to "use for domestic water...recreation...industrial water...[and] the generation of power." Wash. Rev. Code § 90.14.031. "Consumptive use" is defined as the "use of water whereby there is diminishment of the water source." Wash. Admin. Code § 173-500-050.