Rain is free, right? And nobody cares about that rainbarrel I have out back, right?
Well, maybe. Washington State has a prior appropriation water code that provides that “all water above, upon, or beneath the surface of the earth” is public ground water subject to potential water right permit requirements. RCW 43.27A.020: Definitions
An unanswered question has been whether the collection of rainwater in residential rainbarrels or in larger stormwater management systems, among other methods, requires a water rights permit from the Department of Ecology. A new initiative by Ecology seeks to answer these questions. The direction being pursued by Ecology makes most residential rainbarrels exempt from permit requirements. Larger catchment systems likely will be treated differently though, and probably will wind up needing some type of water right permit. Opportunities to shape the direction of the new rules through public comment are coming up soon, via public hearings to be held by Ecology in June. For hearing schedules and more information, visit here.