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Will your Washington business require a water right?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2023 | Agricultural Law, Land Use, Environmental Law

Washington is a state rich in numerous natural resources, including groundwater and surface water, as well as ocean coastline access. To better ensure the protection of its wealth of natural resources, the state imposes numerous restrictions on the business use of water. Regulations help prevent the depletion of resources and allow for more sustainable development efforts.

Many companies that require water to make products or grow crops need to obtain a water right from the state government to operate as intended. They need to submit paperwork to the state and undergo a careful review of their legal obligations before becoming operational. As their business evolves, their water use will need to align with the water right granted.

When exactly is a water right required for a Washington business to operate?

When a company intends to utilize surface water

Whether your organization intends to divert a stream or make use of river frontage to harvest water, you will need to work with state authorities to secure a water right. Any actions that impact surface water, which is water from a visible source like a lake or river, will typically require a water right, however minor that use may be.

When company water use is heavy and frequent

If your business will only occasionally require small amounts of water from a groundwater source, then you may not need to take any special steps to make use of natural resources. Restaurants or office buildings, for example, could use a well to provide water so long as the use does not exceed certain limits.

However, if your company will need to use large amounts of water frequently, a water right may be necessary. Any organization that uses 5,000 gallons of water or more per day will likely require a water right, as will any farmer or business irrigating a half-acre or more of land to farm crops.

Complying with natural resource laws is crucial to business success. Failing to take the appropriate steps to ensure that your business complies with all existing Washington laws, including the rules about water rights, could lead to expensive citations and possibly a cease-and-desist order. Pursuing a Washington water right (when necessary) and learning more about the environmental laws that apply to your business operations can help to limit legal and regulatory risks associated with running your company.