Tag Archives: Skagit County

Skagit County Permits RWC as Sole Source of Water


Can we protect the Skagit River Salmon Habitat while allowing single family residential development?

The Washington State Department of Ecology has worked with local government, tribes, utilities, and landowners to develop a sustainable water supply solution to the “in stream flow rates” described in RCW19.27.097.  As such, the Skagit County Building Department issued its first building permit for a single-family residence using rainwater collection as the sole source of water supply. The “water availability” was issued by the Skagit County Health Department recently for a single-family dwelling.

The use of rainwater collection as a source of water for building permits has been a solution that ecology has recommended in the past. Development of single-family dwellings in the river basin was unable to proceed with permitting because of well allocations having exceeded the allowed amounts. This left property owners, local governments, and tribes at odds to an agreeable solution. Of course that brings up the question “what effects does rainwater collection have on the river and it’s in stream flow rates.”

The Department of Ecology has conducted studies on rainwater collection and its effect on in stream flow rates and has concluded the practice to be beneficial to in stream flow rates.

From the Department of Ecology: Alternative Water Supplies – “We encourage Skagit and Snohomish County to remove any remaining obstacles to property owner’s use of rainwater and trucked-in water for property owners who find this option attractive and who wish to build without delay.”

RWC tankRainwater is collected and diverted to storage for domestic household use. Then conveyed to filtration and disinfection for potable use resulting in a viable source of safe, clean drinking water. After domestic use, wastewater is directed to a typical septic system and infiltrated on site. Without this process, normal rainfall would simply be considered runoff causing possible erosion or evaporation. Storm water runoff can carry harmful pollutants into bodies of water causing significant damage to salmon habitat. Additionally, evaporation causes very little replenishment to the stream. The use of rainwater collection removes both of these possibilities by diverting the rainfall to storage and, after its use, is infiltrated through an approved septic system, naturally replenishing the stream. Simply put, the water is borrowed for use then returned to its natural flow.

RainBank has been designing and installing rainwater collection systems throughout the Pacific Northwest for 12 years and is pleased to be the installer of the first permitted RWC system in the Skagit River Basin, knowing that the river is protected and landowners have a viable solution for development of their property.

Bald Eagle courtesy of  William H. Majoros (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Skagit County Water Rights Battle


The ongoing battle of water rights continues in Skagit County – with Senate Bills 5129, 5136, & 5407 introduced by Republican Senators Bailey & Pearson. The bills, if passed, would repeal some in stream flow rules from the original 2001 ruling. 

On January 15, 2015, Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon denied the petition to reallocate water from the Skagit river and its tributaries.  According to an article in The Skagit Valley Herald “In her response to the petition, Bellon said that finding durable, legal water solutions for homes and businesses was a priority for Ecology, and that they are “working very hard to help resolve water supply concerns for Skagit Basin residents.” 

Also mentioned in the GoSkagit.com article, Zach Barborinas representing Just Water Alliance, commented that “Ecology should set aside water first and for most for human domestic use.”

Swinomish Tribe Chairman Brian Cladoosby stated “the tribe has a high threshold for lawsuits, but if parties break an agreement with the tribe or break the law, the tribe is willing to go to court.”

The three senate bills introduced by the Senate Committee challenges the 2001 ruling of exempt wells in the Skagit river basin and its tributaries which according to Ecology and the Swinomish tribe “would adversely effect salmon habitat.”

Since rainwater collection for potable use was approved by Skagit County in 2014 for single family residence, a solution to this lengthy expensive battle could be readily at hand. Promotion, incentives, or grants for the age-old practice of rainwater harvesting should be in place to supply residences affected by this ruling. Rainwater Collection is a safe, viable source of water, and is most often a cleaner source than well water. The Department of Ecology states that rainwater collection is beneficial to in stream flow rates and salmon habitat.

Does Skagit County Allow Potable Rainwater Collection?

RWC snowIs Skagit County allowing potable rainwater collection for single family construction?

WSR 13-21-044 “in stream resources protection program” and “minimum water flows & levels” are in full effect without the 2006 amendments validated as of 10-11-13. The supreme court upheld the Dept. of Ecologies findings and the 2001 original decisions. (see)  www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/nwro/skagit-wtrsolut.html

More than 5,000 land owners are affected in the Skagit River Basins and many are wondering what to do for a source of water to develop their properties. The Dept. of Ecology has determined that rainwater collection actually augments “instream flow rates, and encourages its use , (see)  www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/hq/rwh.html

Additionally, from the Department of Ecology WA State…

Alternative Water Supplies – “We encourage Skagit and Snohomish County to remove any remaining obstacles to property owner’s use of rainwater and trucked-in water for property owners who find this option attractive and who wish to build without delay.”

Skagit County is allowing alternative sources such as rainwater collection for residential single source use, but should also be encouraging those who have no other viable source. For more information go to www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthEnvironment/watermain.html or contact Skagit County Health Dept.

Of course, RainBank is available for consultation and offers assistance with the permitting process to its customers.