Spokane River – Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer rule

On Feb. 27, 2015, the Water Resources Management Program for the Spokane River and Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) Aquifer — Chapter 173-557 WAC — took effect for the benefit of the community and the river. The rule protects river flows and balances the needs of all water users by setting a regulatory threshold to determine when there is water available for new uses.

Rule implementation

The Water Resources Management Program for the Spokane River and Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) Aquifer applies to the mainstem of the Spokane River and those portions of Spokane and Stevens counties within the boundary of the SVRP Aquifer. After Feb. 27, 2015, all new uses of water from the Spokane River and SVRP Aquifer, including new water right permits and permit-exempt groundwater withdrawals, are required to comply with the rule.

SVRP Aquifer Bank

If you are not able to connect to an existing water supplier for your water needs, you may need to use groundwater from a permit-exempt well. Mitigation is required for all new groundwater uses in the SVRP Aquifer.

We acquired and placed into trust a senior water right for the purpose of offsetting river impacts from the few new domestic wells expected in the rule area. We used this water right to establish the SVRP Aquifer Bank, which provides mitigation water to allow uninterruptible water for new permit-exempt domestic uses.

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Rule appeal

On May 27, 2016, the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, American Whitewater, and the Sierra Club filed an appeal of the Spokane River instream flow rule.

The appeal was heard in Thurston County Superior Court on June 9, 2017. The court denied the petitioners’ challenge to the rule.

On July 28, 2017, the petitioners filed an appeal of the Superior Court decision with a request for direct review by the state Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court denied the request for direct review. The appeal is now pending in the Washington State Court of Appeals.   

Prior to filing a judicial appeal of the rule, petitioners filed a petition to amend the Spokane River Instream Flow rule under the Administrative Procedures Act, RCW 34.05.330. After thoroughly evaluating and considering the issues raised, we chose to stand behind our strong instream flow rule. Using Washington’s water law, we set instream flow levels relying on tested, well-established standard methods.

Sign up for the Spokane River and Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer email list to receive news about implementation of the rule and news related to the appeal: