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.

General Information

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.



More information

If you have any questions, please contact the General information Planner at

(253) 798-7218