Cost reimbursement

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Let us help you review your water supply needs

We ask anyone who needs a water right (new, change, or transfer) to submit a pre-application consultation form and meet with us to review your water supply needs and project proposal.

Cost reimbursement is a contract between us and a water right applicant. Under this contract, applicants assume the full cost of processing their water right application, with some or all of the work performed by a consultant.

Blue, glittering Naches River flowing between gravel banks, metal bridge in background

Naches River, Ecology

An option for water rights applicants

Cost reimbursement processing is an option for expedited water right processing and may result in a quicker decision on your water right application. RCW 43.21A.690 allows us to enter into voluntary cost-reimbursement agreements with water right permit applicants.

Cost-reimbursable activities under the law include:

  • Permit coordination
  • Environmental review
  • Application review
  • Technical studies
  • Permit processing

The law also allows us to enter into cost reimbursement agreements with applicants for water rights permits. We can contract with consultants to assist in processing these applications.  The overall goal of cost reimbursement is to get water right applications processed faster for the applicant. 

Under cost reimbursement, the applicant pays the full cost of processing a water right application. Typically, costs are paid both to an approved consultant and to us for processing an application. We always make the final decision on whether or not to approve the water right application.

Not all applications are accepted for cost reimbursement processing. If it appears a proposed project may result in a denial, we may elect not to accept an application for cost reimbursement processing. Under current law, our staff are required to process water right applications in the order of receipt within a given watershed. Wait times can be lengthy.

If you do not already have a water right application on file, we strongly recommend that you fill out a water right pre-application consultation form and send it to the Ecology regional office where your proposed project is located. Once the pre-application form has been received by us, our staff will schedule a consultation with you to discuss your proposed project and whether cost reimbursement may be an option. Our staff will review important information relevant to your proposed project, including:

  • The regulatory environment and whether water is available for appropriation
  • Whether your project would impact our standard processing
  • The likelihood that your proposed project will result in an approval
  • The number of pending water right applications located in the same watershed as your proposed project

If your application is accepted for cost reimbursement processing and is within the same watershed as pending senior (older) water right applications, the senior applicants have the option to be processed before your application, or waive their option to be processed. To initiate this process, we must notify in writing all persons who have pending applications on file within the watershed.

You may be able to share the cost of processing all applications within the same watershed through a coordinated cost reimbursement agreement. For more information on coordinated cost reimbursement, see the links below for the Lake Chelan Coordinated Cost Reimbursement Program and any notices of coordinated cost reimbursement processing underway in the state.

Our scope of work and estimated cost will be provided in advance of initiating cost reimbursement. The total costs paid to us and the approved consultant will depend on the complexity of your application and whether senior applications within the same watershed will be processed as well. The total cost can range from thousands of dollars to, in very rare cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Currently, the list of Ecology-approved cost reimbursement consultants includes:

For additional information, please see Ecology’s guidance – Focus on: Cost Reimbursement