In 2001, we adopted WAC 173-503, which established instream flow levels to help preserve the Skagit River ecosystem. The rule protects adequate water in the river for healthy salmon runs, good water quality, and recreational activities, as required by state law, while protecting existing water rights.
Instream flows are like a water right for the river. Under Washington water law, new uses of water (in this case, those started after the effective date of the rule) can't impact existing water rights, no matter how small that impact may be. This includes any impacts to streamflows whenever they drop below the protected instream flow levels. Therefore, there are limits on new water uses of any size, including permit-exempt wells, in the Skagit River basin.
Is your property affected?
The rule limits many new water uses in certain locations.
It does not affect:
- Water rights established before April 14, 2001;
- Permit-exempt groundwater uses established before April 14, 2001; and
- People supplied by city or other large water systems.
You can look up your location on a map to find if the rule applies to your property:
- Open the map
- Click on “Planning and Development” on the left
- Click on “Skagit Instream Flow rule Area 4”
- Go to “Search” in the lower left and enter your information. (If using your name, put your last name first)
Visit the Skagit basin water supply page if you are in an area affected by the rule.