Oct 16, 2016 the Hirst Decision basically said that water is not legally available, if a new well would impact a protected river or stream, or an existing senior water right.  I have heard this called a “Well Moratorium” or “ Building Permit Freeze” in Spokane County. The decision came from a court case in Whatcom County, but was upheld by the state Supreme Court.  This made the decision binding state wide in Washington. (Whatcom County v. W Wash. Growth Mgmt. Hr’gs Bd. No. 91475-3.0) The state legislature is the only one who can overturn this decision. The bill to address this stalled in the Washington State House of Representatives, the State Senate is currently working on a bill. (HB 1885 and SB 5239)

In Spokane County, you may be able to prove your well does not effect a river or stream, or existing senior water rights. This usually will require a hydrogeological analysis, which can be expensive. We have found them for around $1000, but each case is different.  Talk with the people at Spokane County Building & Planning before you do anything. We have found them to be very helpful.  

There are some rules that seem to hold true. Wells need to be at least 500’ from the nearest well, unless the hydrogeologist can identify your well as being in the granite aquafer. In that case, you may only need to be 200’ from the nearest well. One thing is for sure the situation is constantly evolving, so don’t give up get yourself up to speed!

Some useful links:

Ecology’s website about the decision


Ecology’s website about water resources


Ecology’s Instream flows website


Spokane County Building & Planning