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Water Resources and Water Quality

This page provides information about water resource planning and water quality for local governments in Washington State, including examples of local programs, water quality reports, and recommended resources.


Washington State relies on surface water for about three-quarters of total freshwater withdrawals — the majority of which is sustained in warm seasons by melting snowpack., Ground water accounts for the remaining one-quarter of Washington’s water supply. In the past, Washington has enjoyed an abundance of water, but water availability is no longer a state luxury due to rising temperatures and limited water availability from aquifers.

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) works closely with Washington communities and residents to provide effective water management. DOE's webpage on water supply includes information on water availability, river and streamflow restoration, water rights, wells, dams, and water recovery solutions for new water users.

Water Resource Planning

Water resources planning ranges from estimating future water demand to evaluating possible new sources of water, protecting water sources, and addressing expanding environmental regulations. A water resources plan should bring together a myriad issues, interests, and stakeholders through a planning process that can result in a reason-based, cost-effective, and an environmentally sound plan the public can support.

Below are samples of water resource planning from counties across the state:

Clean Water, Water Quality

The objective of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act (CWA), is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters by preventing point and non-point pollution sources, providing assistance to publicly owned treatment works for the improvement of wastewater treatment, and maintaining the integrity of wetlands.

Under the CWA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry (see Section 404 to learn how it applies to agriculture, for example).

Federal efforts to comply with the CWA include the following EPA programs: Polluted Runoff: Nonpoint Source Pollution, which develops national water quality criteria recommendations for pollutants in surface waters, and the Clean Water Act Compliance Monitoring, which enforces federal clean water and safe drinking water laws, provides support for municipal wastewater treatment plants, and takes part in pollution prevention efforts aimed at protecting watersheds.

State efforts to comply with the CWA include the DOE’s Water Quality Program and Puget Sound Partnership, which is a state-led partnership between residents, cities  tribes, scientists, and businesses working together to restore and protect Puget Sound.

Clean Water Programs

Many local clean water programs include public education and outreach.

Animal Waste, Agricultural Practices

Animal waste produced as the result of agricultural practices, such as animal feeding operations, must be managed properly or risks to water supplies and the environment could result. The DOE’s webpage, What you can do to manage animal waste, offers tips for both livestock and domestic pet-related waste.

Dairy Nutrient Management is a water quality program administered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture under Chapter RCW 90.64, Dairy Nutrient Management Act. This Act requires all licensed cow dairies to develop and implement nutrient management plans, register with WSDA, and participate in a program of regular inspections and compliance.

Lake and Beach Management Districts

In 2008, the lake management district provisions were amended to include the formation of beach management districts (Chapter 36.61 RCW). The purpose of the lake and beach district legislation is to establish a governmental mechanism by which property owners can embark on a program of lake or beach improvement and maintenance. Our Lake and Beach Management Districts webpage provides a general overview, including relevant statutes, formation procedures, and examples of local provisions.

Shellfish Protection Districts

The provisions in Ch. 90.72 RCW encourage, and in some cases, require counties to establish shellfish protection districts and programs to curb the loss of productive shellfish beds caused by nonpoint sources of pollution, such as stormwater runoff, failing on-site sewage systems, and wastes related to agricultural practices. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) maintains a shellfish safety information map to indicate areas where shellfish should/should not be harvested.

Sample shellfish protection programs and districts are listed below.

Water Quality Reports

State and federal drinking water rules require Group A community water systems — those which serve 15 or more connections or 25 or more people — to produce and distribute a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) to customers and the state DOH before July 1 each year. DOH’s Preparing a Consumer Confidence Report webpage offers links to the current year's state certification form, tips for preparing a user-friendly report, and a checklist for CCR compliance.  

Below are examples of CCRs provided to customers.


Special Purpose Districts

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: September 01, 2023