Homes with permit-exempt wells

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Approximately 15% of Washington residents rely on a permit-exempt well for their domestic water source. There are likely more than 10,000 permit-exempt wells in WRIA 1. 

As the name implies, these wells have not historically required a water right permit from the state. According to state law (RCW 90.44.050) the permit-exempt wells must meet the following conditions:

  • Domestic use, established before 2020, of up to 5,000 gallons per day with outdoor watering of lawn or garden up to half of an acre (21,780 square feet).
  • Domestic use, established after 2020, of up to 500 gallons per day indoors with outdoor watering of lawn or garden up to 1/12 an acre (3,630 square feet).
  • Industrial use, including commercial irrigation, up to 5,000 gallons per day.
  • Water for livestock with no daily limitation.

Only groundwater use can be permit-exempt, not surface water. As with other water users, people who use permit-exempt wells must follow the state and local rules for water use and ensure that their water use does not affect other water users.

Frequently asked questions about homes on wells