Water use compliance and enforcement

How we use water affects all of us — businesses, farms, communities, and the environment. Growth in residential development, business, and agriculture has increased competition for water. Dwindling salmon stocks and their listing under the Endangered Species Act have heightened concern about wasteful or illegal water use and compliance with water resources laws.

Laws regulating water use are not new. Even when Washington’s population was smaller and water demand was low, there was recognition that water use required regulation to reduce conflicts among competing water users and to protect the resource. The Legislature established the Surface Water Code in 1917, the Groundwater Code in 1945, and added provisions addressing water for fish and wildlife in 1949.

Chapter 90.54 RCW, the Water Resources Act of 1971, set the stage for the series of rules that set instream flow levels as water rights, as well as a compliance effort to protect those flows.