New Permit-Exempt Wells
Permit-Exempt Wells & Water Rights
Permit-exempt wells are authorized through RCW 90.44.050. This state law allows use of groundwater for specific purposes without the need to obtain a water rights permit. Although these permit-exempt uses don’t require a water right permit, you are still subject to state water law.
Effective January 19, 2018, ESSB 6091 addresses water availability to support existing and new development. This bill changes how the County has been processing applications using drilled “permit-exempt” wells:
- A $500 administrative fee ($350 to Washington State Department of Ecology, $150 to Pierce County for reporting requirements)
- A recording of restrictions on title is now required (additional recording fee)
- Wells within certain Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA) are subject to withdraw rates. Refer to WRIA map.
- Wells within the #11 Nisqually WRIA are limited to 3,000 gallons per day.
- Wells within the #10 Puyallup-White, #12 Chambers-Clover, and #15 Kitsap WRIAs are limited to 950 gallons per day.
- Applies to anyone applying for a building permit or subdivision using a new permit-exempt well. Existing wells are not affected.
- A hydro-geologic study associated with these applications is no longer required
- The Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) still reviews well applications. More info can be found on the TPCHD website.
- Pierce County Public GIS
- Pierce County Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs) and Water Availability Rule Status
- Find Your WRIA (Ecology website)
- Landowner's Guide to Washington Water Rights, Washington Rivers Conservancy, 2009
- Understanding the Whatcom County vs. Hirst, Futurewise et. al. decision, WA Dept. of Ecology, 2016
If you have any questions, please contact the General information Planner at