Changes to existing water rights

Changing or transferring an existing water right can involve changing the period of use, the place of use, the point of diversion or withdrawal, or the purpose or manner of use. Changing ownership of a water right, application, or permit, or drilling a replacement well, may not require a full water right change process.


If you are seeking a change to an existing water right, we recommend a pre-application consultation with our regional staff. Changes to water rights can be very complicated. Our staff will be able to advise you on potential impacts from recent court decisions that may affect your ability to change certain attributes of your water right. They will also be able to tell you which records you'll need to include with your application for change, and whether using a water conservancy board may be an option for you.

Signatures

If the applicant is not the legal land owner or part owner of both the existing place of use and the proposed place of use, the application must also include the signature and address of the legal land owner(s).

Seasonal changes

Seasonal changes are temporary transfers of water rights for periods less than one year. At the end of the authorized period of change, the water right reverts back to the original place of use.

When applying for a seasonal change, keep the following in mind:

  • To ensure timely review, applications should be submitted by Feb. 15. The applications are only good for one year, so new applications need to be submitted for each year you are interested in pursuing a seasonal change.
  • Flow meters or other approved measuring devices will be required for all wells and points of diversion. Last season’s metering data should be submitted with the seasonal change application.
  • Aerial photos are available through the local conservation district and should be attached to applications for seasonal changes for irrigation to verify existing irrigated acreage.
  • We cannot approve requests involving water rights subject to relinquishment under Chapter 90.14 RCW.
  • A public notice of the proposed seasonal change may be required. The applicant is responsible for fees associated with publication of the public notice. Public notice is a minimum 45-day process (two weeks of notice in a local newspaper followed by a 30-day protest period).

File a complete and accurate Seasonal Change Application with supporting documentation at least 90 days prior to the intended use, but no later than Feb. 15 of that calendar year. If not postmarked by that date, we cannot assure that your application will be reviewed.

Send a separate Seasonal Change Application and a $50 application fee for each water right you propose to change to:

Department of Ecology
Cashiering Unit
PO Box 47611
Olympia, WA  98504-7611

Adding or replacing a well

If you need to add or replace a well to make full use of your water right, Showing of Compliance with RCW 90.44.100(3) can allow you to avoid the full water right change process. You can request a Pre-Application Consultation to help you determine if this is a viable option for your circumstances.

Transferring ownership of a water right application or permit

It is not necessary to file a change application to transfer ownership of a water right application or permit, unless there will also be a change to the place, purpose, or timing of the water use. Instead you should file an assignment form:

Please note: Most certificated water rights are appurtenant to the land containing the place of use and transfer with the land title.