Building Permits and Water Supply

Exempt Well Requirements for Building Permits

After passage of ESSB 6091, the process of obtaining a building permit in Spokane County is simplified and returned to something similar to what was in place prior to the Hirst Decision.

The new law also establishes a requirement for local government entities and other water resource stakeholders to develop a plan within three (3) years to mitigate for the consumptive quantity of water that will be withdrawn from aquifers in the Little Spokane River Basin over the next 20 years. A crucial element of SB 6091 was the establishment of a state-wide fund of 300 million dollars over the next 15 years to develop and implement the plans. If a new plan is not completed by February 1, 2021 the Washington Department of Ecology is required to establish new water use rules within the watershed.

It is recommended that you review the full bill but below are the key provisions as it pertains specifically to wells drilled for domestic use and building permits.


WRIA 55 - Little Spokane River Watershed

The requirements specified in Senate Bill 6091 for the Little Spokane River Watershed (WRIA 55) fall into two categories for building permit applicants:

(1) Those that will use a well drilled prior to 1/19/18 will need to provide a well log that demonstrates that the well was constructed before that date and complies with Washington State well construction standards.

(2) Those that will use a well drilled after 1/19/18 may:

  • EITHER pay a $500 fee and have a restriction on domestic use of 3,000 gallons per day on an annual average, which will be recorded on the property title;
  • OR purchase a Stream Flow Mitigation Certificate (and the $500 fee is then waived)

WRIA 55 stream flow mitigation certificates -- while now not required for a building permit due to the passage of ESSB 6091 (now RCW 90.94) -- may still be purchased by property owners. The benefit to purchasing a mitigation certificate from the water currently available in the water bank is that you are purchasing a portion of a water right that has a priority date of March 29, 1975. This date is before the Little Spokane River instream flow water right was established. While the Department of Ecology has never regulated exempt wells, the mitigation certificate is an insurance policy against any future water supply issues or litigation.

TO LEARN MORE AND TO PURCHASE A MITIGATION CERTIFICATE, go to the Little Spokane River Water Bank page. Keep in mind that your parcel must still be within the approved mitigation area of WRIA 55.

Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) Aquifer

Parcels over the SVRP aquifer (a portion of WRIA 57) that will use a permit exempt well, will utilize the water bank administered by the Washington Department of Ecology. Contact the Eastern Regional Office in Spokane at (509) 329-3400 for assistance.

More information on Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) Stream Flow Mitigation.

All Other Watersheds

In all other areas of Spokane County, the only requirement is a well log, and demonstration of sufficient water quantity and quality per Spokane Regional Health District.

Supplemental Background

1/31/18 UPDATE:  On 1/30/18, the Spokane County Commissioners repealed the interim building ordinance.  Please see below the simplified requirements to get a building permit using a permit exempt well in Spokane County.

1/28/18 UPDATE:  The Department of Ecology released this document interpreting the key provisions of ESSB 6091.

Ecology Policy Interpretations of ESSB 6091

1/25/18 UPDATE:   On Friday, January 19, 2018, the Washington State Legislature passed, and the governor signed, Senate Bill 6091. This now means the Spokane County Commissioners will consider a repeal of the County's temporary interim zoning ordinance. If repealed, the requirements for building permits are simplified. Please read this press release online for more details...