Public records requests and disclosure

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) status update as of 9/24/2020

In response to coronavirus (Covid-19) public heath guidance and social distancing measures, the Governor has signed a proclamation that temporarily suspends the 5-day response requirement of the Public Records Act (PRA).  The proclamation also temporarily suspends the PRA requirement that agency offices must be open for public inspection and copying of public records for a minimum of 30 hours per week.

Until further notice, Ecology generally will not provide the ability for the public to conduct PRA business at an agency office, such as in-person inspection of records or in-person submission of PRA requests. Some offices may be open for in-person record review by appointment only depending on which counties those buildings are located in. Please note that any in-person record reviews may only be conducted outside and safety precautions must be followed. These suspensions are in effect until the termination of the COVID-19 State of Emergency.  See Governor’s Proclamation 20-28.9.

On many of our web pages, we've included quick links that complete the phrase, "I want to..." To help you find even more information, and to help you complete tasks quickly, we gathered the most popular links on our site and categorized them on this page. Follow the links below to quickly find top information.

The Washington Public Records Act, Chapter 42.56 RCW, requires us to promptly make identifiable public records available for inspection and provide records upon request. We adopted rules, Chapter 173-03 WAC, to implement the requirements of the Public Records Act.

Records available on our website

Instant records search

Many public records are available on the Ecology website at no cost. First, try looking in our databases. Our publications are also searchable.

Water right certificates

You can request a water right certificate by submitting a Records Request on this page or by contacting the Water Rights Help Desk for your region. Find out about water rights and find contact information on our water rights page.

Index of Interpretive and Policy Statements and Declaratory and Final Orders

You can access Ecology’s Interpretive and Policy Statements and find information on Declaratory and Final Orders.

Things to know before submitting a request

What is a public record?

A public record is any recorded information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency, regardless of physical form or characteristics. 

Recorded information includes:

  • paper records
  • electronic records
  • emails
  • photographs
  • recordings, etc.

An identifiable record is a record that can be reasonably located by agency staff.

Records exempt from public disclosure

Certain records are exempt from production under the Public Records Act, RCW 42.56, and other statutes that contain additional exemptions. If we withhold records or black out portions (redact) under an exemption, we will include a description of the record withheld, the statute relied on for the exemption, and a brief explanation of how the exemption applies.

Submit a records request

Still not finding what you need? You can request public records by filing a records request. All public record requests must be directed to the agency Public Records Officer using one of these options.

  • Submit a request online 
  • If you do not have access to email you may download our Records Request Form and use it to submit your request by mail to:
    Public Records Officer
    WA Dept. of Ecology
    PO Box 47600
    Olympia WA 98504-7600
  • If you need assistance with the options above, please contact us at: or 360-407-6040.

In your request, please describe in detail the records you are requesting. Failure to provide sufficient information to locate the records you request may cause delay. 

How we will respond to your request

Within five business days of receipt of your request, we will do one of the following:

  • request clarification of the request,
  • provide the record,
  • provide a link to access the records if available online,
  • deny the request, or
  • provide a date of when we estimate we can provide you the records.

We will search for, gather, review the records, and redact any exempt information in the records, if necessary. We will contact you to provide:

  • dates available to review the records at an Ecology office, and/or
  • estimated cost of copying or scanning the records (estimates are based on our copy fee schedule).

If the request is large, we may provide the records in installments.

What does it cost to obtain copies of public records?

There is no charge to inspect public records. If you want copies of records, please see our copy fee schedule.

  • If you request records mailed to you, we will add postage charges to the total cost.
  • We do not charge copy fees less than $25.00. Some requests may require a 10 percent deposit, per RCW 42.56.120.