Adjudication of WRIA 1 (Nooksack)

Washington state map with location of WRIA 1 Nooksack watershed

WRIA 1 Nooksack Watershed

We are preparing to file a general stream adjudication in WRIA 1, the Nooksack River system and area of Whatcom County north to Canada. In 2023, we plan to begin the adjudication process in Whatcom County Superior Court and notify all involved water users. In the months after the case begins, water users will need to file a claim describing their water use, so the court can inventory all legal water rights in order.

The Nooksack River mainstem is fed by the North, Middle, and South forks of the Nooksack River. The watershed includes various other streams such as the Lummi River and Dakota, Fishtrap, Bertrand, TenMile, and Whatcom creeks. The adjudication will include all areas of WRIA 1, regardless of whether they are directly connected to the Nooksack River system.

Who is involved?

Our records show nearly 5,000 surface and groundwater right documents on file for WRIA 1, some dating back more than 100 years. We will mail notice to all water users by certified mail. The notice will explain who must respond and how to file a claim. People who use water only as customers of a system — such as a city, PUD, or water system — will not need to file a claim. As a general rule, anyone else who wants to use WRIA 1 water needs to participate in the adjudication, including permit-exempt well users.

Video of Jan. 30, 2023, online informational presentation about the water rights adjudication in the Nooksack Basin. You can also vew the presentation as a PDF.

Why Adjudication?

There are uncertainties surrounding legal water use in WRIA 1.

Records do not reflect legal or actual use. Federal and tribal water rights are not quantified. Attempts to resolve water disputes collaboratively, over many years, have not led to a complete permanent solution.

Until water uses are adjudicated, uncertainty about the future will continue to grow. Instead of addressing individual challenges to each permit and rule decisions as they arise over the years, an adjudication results in a comprehensive decree and final determination. Read more frequently asked questions in Focus on: Potential Adjudication in Nooksack Basin.

What’s happening now?

We are preparing to file adjudication in 2023. We hosted a webinar in January 2023 to share more information with water users who will participate in the process. We are engaged in mapping, identifying water users, conducting outreach to affected parties, developing IT systems, and working with local superior courts and the Washington Attorney General’s Office. We are also participating in the Whatcom County-led solutions process.

Stay informed

Join our email list for updates about the WRIA 1 adjudication. We understand this is a complex process. Contact us if you would like us to speak to your group.

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