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Kittitas County will soon expand its water mitigation and metering program to read, monitor and report all new uses of water in Kittitas County, according to a Kittitas County news release.

The change applies to all new water uses, not just those through the Kittitas County Water Bank. A new use of ground water includes drilling a well for a new house or shop.

As part of legislation approved following the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, Washington State Legislature required the state Department of Ecology to implement a metering pilot metering program in Kittitas County this year. The program will run through December 2027. Kittitas County will administer the program.

To implement the program, the county is seeking proposals for the purchase of water meters, meter reading and programming equipment, and software for the county’s meter reading and enforcement activities, according to a news release. All proposals must be received by 5 p.m. on May 11.

The state Supreme Court’s 2016 Hirst decision halted development in some parts of the state when it determined that counties were not adequately examining impacts on stream and river flow levels. The decision came after the court ruled that Whatcom County had been issuing permit exemptions that violated instream flow rules designed to protect stream water levels.

The state pilot project, which also involves the Dungeness water rule area, will evaluate the costs and benefits of a water program that relies on individual meters versus one that estimates permit-exempt groundwater withdrawals. It will study the cost to the state and local governments, the law said.

Kittitas County has offered water mitigation through a county-owned and operated water bank since Dec. 2, 2015. All customers that have purchased mitigation through the Kittitas County Water Bank have been required to be metered and monitored through the Kittitas County Water Metering program and reported to Washington State Department of Ecology.

Mitigation is a withdrawal of water with an impact to area streams that is offset by water from existing water rights left in stream. It might include obtaining a portion of a senior water right appropriate to offset the new groundwater withdrawal.

For more information, contact Erin Moore, county water resources program coordinator, at 509-962-7515.

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