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 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:
- Chelan County: Water Resources Management — Offers information regarding the county’s water quality and quantity (streamflow) monitoring studies, and SEPA compliance documentation.
- King County: Hydrologic Information Center — Provides public access to rainfall, streamflow, and other hydrologic data collected by the county
- San Juan County: Water Resource Management — Includes Water Resource Management and Implementation Plans, budget studies, and water supply and groundwater reports
- Skagit County: Water Resources Management — Links to departments that oversee marine resources, lake management, water quality, salmon habitat monitoring, conservation, instream flow and groundwater, and the clean water program.
- Whatcom County: Watershed Management Plan — Addresses water quantity, water quality, instream flow, and fish habitat challenges in the Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs) 1, which covers most of Whatcom County with a portion extending into Canada and Skagit County.
- Yakima County: Water Resources Division Initiatives — Links to reports and information on water quality and quantity, water flow management, and riverine habitat planning.
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.
Many local clean water programs include public education and outreach.
- Clark County: Clean Water Projects — Lists/links to a variety of items, including stormwater capital plan and water quality monitoring/stormwater maintenance project from past to present.
- King County: Stormwater Services and Information — Includes public education information, permit-related drainage design and resources, a map of county stormwater infrastructure, and more.
- Olympia: Pollution Prevention — Includes public education information on spill prevention and reporting, pollution prevention for businesses, natural yard care, and school educational opportunities.
- Skagit County: Clean Water Program — Improves surface water by monitoring and identifying sources of non-point pollution though public outreach and education, controlling storm water pollution, developing water quality monitoring plans, and restoring habitats. Also see the county’s Pollution Identification and Correction Program.
- Vancouver: Water Resources Protection Program — Related to the city's water resources protection ordinance, which impose minimum standards on resident, businesses, and industries to protect critical city aquifers.
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.
- Clallam County: Shellfish Program
- Grays Harbor County: Shellfish Protection District
- Jefferson County: Clean Water District
- King County: Poverty Bay Shellfish Protection District
- Mason County
- Big Bend Shellfish Protection District (2017) — Offers a strategy for improving water quality in the area.
- Annas Bay Shellfish Protection District Closure Response Plan (2018)
- Snohomish County: Stillaguamish River Basin
- Skagit County: Clean Samish Initiative
- Whatcom County: Shellfish Protection Districts
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.
- Bremerton: Annual Drinking Water Quality Report
- Longview: Water Distribution Division — Includes links to water quality reports.
- Mercer Island: Water Utility — See Supporting Documents section for the recent report.
- Moses Lake: Water Quality Reports
- Port Angeles: Water Utility — See Consumer Confidence Water Quality Report section.
- Vancouver: Water Quality Reports
Special Purpose Districts
- Covington Water District: Annual Water Quality Reports
- Lakehaven Water & Sewer District: Water Quality
- Lakewood Water District: Water Quality Report Archive
- Woodinville Water District: Annual Drinking Water Quality Reports
- Center for Urban Waters — Develops creative and sustainable solutions to restore and protect urban waterways. Housing in the University of Washington Tacoma.
- MRSC: Water Utilities — Provides resources and sample documents for public water utilities in Washington State, with a particular emphasis on small water systems.
- WA Department of Commerce: Puget Sound National Estuary Program - Integrated Watershed and Stormwater Planning — Information to help integrate watershed and stormwater planning into local comprehensive planning in the Puget Sound basin
- Puget Sound Regional Council:
- U.S. Bureau of Reclamation — Manages, develops, and protects water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner.
- U.S. EPA
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
- National Water Quality Assessment — Produces scientific data and knowledge for use by national, regional, state, and local agencies to develop science-based policies and management strategies to improve and protect water resources used for drinking water, recreation, irrigation, energy development, and ecosystem needs.
- Washington Water Science Center — Source of information on state rivers and streams, ground water, water quality, and many other topics; Data is backed by an extensive satellite network of stream-gaging stations.
- State of Washington Water Research Center — Oversees and conducts applied water-related research, fosters education and training of future water professionals, and serves as a nexus within the academic community by transferring research results to those who manage or use the Nation’s water resources. Housed within Washington State University.
- Washington State Ground Water Association — Trade association for ground water professionals dedicated to protecting, promoting, and educating ground water professionals and the public about the safe use of ground water.
- Washington State Water Resources Association — Association of irrigation districts, irrigation companies, and other agricultural water providers throughout Washington.
- Washington Stormwater Center — Provides stormwater management solutions and leadership through research, training, and education.