Water banks

Water banking allows the transfer of existing water rights from willing sellers to buyers who will put the water to a new use. Water banks exist in almost all western states. Although the approaches may differ, the common goal is moving water to where it is needed most. 

Water banks are becoming more common throughout Washington as it becomes difficult to obtain new water rights for growing demands. While anyone may purchase a full or partial water right from a willing seller, water banks provide protection from relinquishment and allow for greater flexibility. This is especially helpful when a large water right is reallocated to many smaller uses over a large area or for future uses.

Establishing water banks in Washington

Generally, creating a water bank begins with a consultation between us and a would-be banker (usually a water right holder or broker). If we agree that the banker’s proposal is feasible and supports the public’s interests, a water banking agreement may be negotiated to set expectations for us and the banker. All agreements are unique but, generally, the basis for a bank is that at least one water right is conveyed to us and held in the Trust Water Rights Program. While held in trust, the banked water right remains in good standing. The water bank can then mitigate for new water uses.

In addition to the overarching goal of facilitating transfers, we strive to achieve one or more of the following objectives through the creation of water banks:

  • Create a reliable water supply during dry years
  • Ensure a future water supply for people, farms, and fish
  • Promote water conservation

Laws & regulations

Under Chapter 90.42 RCW, we may facilitate water banking through the Trust Water Rights Program.