WRIA 1 Adjudication Update

March 29th, 2024 - Catherine A. Moore

As of the date of publishing, the Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) still plans to file the adjudication of the Nooksack River Watershed Resource Inventory Area (“WRIA 1”) by the end of April 2024. The purpose of the adjudication is to determine the extent, validity, and priority date of every single ground and surface water right in WRIA 1. You can read more about the adjudication in our previous water law and water rights blog posts.

Ecology has tried to design the adjudication to be as friendly as possible to laypeople, but many will still find it confusing. Because even with their efforts to make it simple, the adjudication process might be difficult for many people to navigate, Ecology has committed to providing extensive technical assistance to the public with locating water rights and filling in claims forms.

Ecology is not your only option for assistance. Lawyers are also available to help water rights holders with various aspects of the adjudication. A lawyer with water law experience can help with all aspects of adjudication. They can analyze the strengths and weaknesses in your water rights holdings, assist you in filling in the claim form to put you in the best possible position, help you determine the best kind and sources of evidence to support your water right claim, advocate for you in court or against the Department of Ecology if they believe your right is less than what you think it is, and negotiate with the Department of Ecology on your behalf.

For example, you may want to consult with or retain a lawyer if:

  • You hold water rights you need to safeguard.
  • You face a significant risk if your water rights or water use were reduced through adjudication, e.g., your livelihood depends on the amount of water you’re using now.
  • Your water use has not been consistent with your written water rights, e.g., you’re using more or less water than written or using it for a different purpose.
  • You’ve been using water, but you do not have a water right.
  • You have a water right, but you think or know it went unused for a period of five or more years.
  • You represent an entity, such as a water association, that uses its water to serve others.
  • You anticipate that Ecology might not agree with your characterization of your water rights.
  • There is a dispute of some kind over a water right, e.g., your neighbor claims to own a water right you think is yours.
  • You’re hesitant to bring your questions to Ecology because they are the opposing party and will be making a determination as to the extent, validity, and priority date of your water right.
  • You spoke to Ecology and you don’t feel they answered your question fully, you disagree with what they told you, you want a different perspective, or you were left with more questions.
  • You have questions about your rights to water or your responsibilities during the adjudication process.

This is not an exhaustive list. There is simply no bad reason to consult a lawyer regarding your water rights or water use. We highly encourage you to contact a lawyer experienced in water law if you have any questions at all regarding your water right or water use.


Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.

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