2020 Legislative priorities

Our role

During Washington's legislative session, we have the opportunity to propose legislation that will help us continue to meet our mission. We evaluate and prioritize environmental issues facing the state and use our strategic priorities and budget requests to guide our proposed legislation. Check this page or follow us on Twitter @ecologywa and search #waleg to get the latest news on our legislative proposals.

Water banking

Water banks are a tool to facilitate voluntary exchange of water rights from one use to another in areas of limited supply. They play an important role in water management and it is vital that they operate to preserve water and natural resources, support public health, and the state’s economic well-being. Our proposed bill will:

  • Make administrative improvements to increase transparency when water banks are developed.

  • Create a transparent process for evaluating water bank proposals that ensures they serve their intended purposes.

  • Convene a stakeholder group to further examine these complicated issues, develop policy recommendations, and report back to the Legislature in November 2020.

Although House Bill 2603 and Senate Bill 6494 didn’t pass in the 2020 session, we were directed to further study water banking topics and report back to the Legislature in fall 2020. Learn more about our Advisory Group on Water Trust, Banking, and Transfers.

To read the bill language, visit the:

As demand for water in Washington grows, it is important to manage water resources in a way that preserves natural resources, supports public health, and maintains the state’s economic well-being. Water banks will continue to be an important tool in water management. It’s critical that banks operate with transparency and support the stewardship of water resources. 

Mary Verner
Program Manager
Water Resources Program

Drought preparedness and response

Modernizing Washington’s drought statutes is important to effectively prepare for and respond to drought emergencies. This bill will:

  • Create tools and resources that help build long-term drought resiliency among water users and communities throughout the state.
  • Improve the state’s ability to effectively respond to drought emergencies, including establishing an advisory-type status in advance of drought conditions.
  • Codify many of the best practices identified in the updated 2018 Washington State Drought Contingency Plan.  

House Bill 1622, sponsored by Rep. Blake, has passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support. It is now going to Governor Inslee for signature.

To read the bill language, visit the:

Current statutes limit our ability to effectively prepare for and respond to drought emergencies. With climate forecasts predicting more frequent droughts, it’s critical that we take a more proactive approach to drought preparedness and response. Our proposal will build long-term drought resiliency for farmers, water suppliers, and the environment while also improving the state’s ability to quickly and effectively respond to drought emergencies. 

Carrie Sessions
Policy and Legislative Analyst
Water Resources Program
360-407-6094 ​

Antifouling boat paint

A 2018 law bans copper-based antifouling paints for recreational boats beginning in 2021. The law also directed Ecology to review alternatives to copper-based antifouling paints and develop recommendations for the Legislature.

In the summer of 2019, we completed this report, but found there are still significant unanswered questions about existing alternatives to copper-based paints.

Because of these concerns, we're requesting that the Legislature:

  • Delay the ban on copper-based paints to Jan. 1, 2026, to allow more time to study the issue.
  • Give Ecology the authority to require paint manufacturers to disclose information on the chemical ingredients in their products.
  • Ban paints containing a specific alternative antifouling ingredient, Cybutryne (sold under the brand name Irgarol 1051), which we found poses a serious threat of environmental harm.

Senate Bill 6210, sponsored by Sen. Lovelett, was passed by the state House of Representatives and the Senate. It was signed into law on March 18, 2020. House Bill 2385 is sponsored by Rep. Chapman and had a public hearing in the House Committee on Environment & Energy.

To read the bill language, visit the:

Copper is commonly used in antifouling paints to keep the hulls of boats free of barnacles and slime, which decrease performance and can damage the boat's surface. The same properties that make copper an effective ingredient in antifouling coatings, however, can lead to environmental harm when the paint wears away or flakes off. Copper has also been linked to toxicity in salmon, where it can affect their sense of smell and ability to detect predators. 

Reducing these threats was the intent of the 2018 legislation. However, our investigation indicated that alternative biocidal ingredients pose threats of their own, and that additional research is needed to find the right balance between performance and environmental protection.

Kimberly Goetz
Legislative Coordinator
Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction