When we determine that a violation has occurred or is about to occur, we first attempt to achieve voluntary compliance. As part of this first response, we offer information and technical assistance in person, by phone, or in writing. Our technical assistance efforts are focused on identifying one or more ways to legally meet the person's needs.
We may also take immediate action if we believe the violation is causing harm to other water rights or to public resources (RCW 90.03.605 (2)).
If education and technical assistance do not achieve compliance, we move to a formal enforcement action. First a notice of violation and/or a formal administrative order (RCW 43.27A.190) is issued. If the violation continues, we can assess a civil penalty (RCW 90.03.600). We can also seek court injunctions or criminal prosecution to achieve compliance with Washington’s water right laws and regulations.
Notice of violation: A notice of violation officially informs the recipient that they have violated, or pose the potential to violate, the water code.
Administrative order: An administrative order directs violators to take certain actions within a specified time frame. An example of a directive contained in an order may be to “immediately cease and desist unauthorized use of water.” Failure to comply with an administrative order may result in civil penalties.
Civil penalty: The maximum penalty for violating Washington water laws ranges between $100 and $5,000 per day for each separate violation, based on the seriousness of the violation.
Appeal process: You may appeal an administrative order or penalty notice to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board. The order or penalty document will provide information on the appeal process.
Disagreements may be a civil matter: Disagreements between private parties regarding water use may need to be settled in court. For example, a court settlement may be needed if you believe your neighbor’s water use is interfering with yours. Court settlements are most necessary if one or more uses are based on claimed rights that have not been confirmed in a water rights adjudication.