YAKIMA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna has sided with the state Department of Ecology in its ongoing dispute over new water wells in Kittitas County.
McKenna's office released an official opinion Wednesday which states the department can prohibit new uses of groundwater and unpermitted wells, but the agency cannot reduce the amount of water drawn by an individual well below what is currently allowed in state law.
McKenna said Ecology officials can require that new water users obtain an existing water right to offset what they're taking from groundwater, a concept called mitigation.
In July, the state imposed an emergency rule that prohibited all new uses of well water after officials could not reach agreement with county commissioners on a water management plan, according to McKenna.
Ecology officials have contended that the proliferation of unpermitted wells is affecting the water supply for senior water rights holders and stream flows, however county officials contend a water shortage may not exist.
According to the state's groundwater code, small use wells are not required to have a state permit to operate.
The state imposes four other exemptions which limit home well use to 5,000 gallons a day, according to McKenna