Surface Reservoir Permit

What is the purpose of this permit?
The Surface Reservoir permit is a legal water right to fill a constructed impoundment.
Who issues this permit?
Department of Ecology
What activities require this permit?
Ecology requires a reservoir permit to fill impoundments that will store water to a depth of 10 or more feet, or impoundments that will retain 10 or more acre-feet of water. This definition applies to both off-channel and in-stream impoundments.
How much will this permit cost?
There is a minimum $50 application fee. Any additional fees will depend on the amount of water you are proposing to use and will need to be paid upfront to consider your application complete. The fee to appropriate new water is $1 per one-hundredth cubic foot per second (cfs). The fee for new water-storage projects is $2 per acre-foot of storage. The maximum application fee to appropriate or store water is $25,000. Fees are non-refundable, so do not send additional fees until you are notified of the amount. Ecology will bill you any additional amount owed. Once billed, you will have 60 days to pay, or we will reject your application. PRE-APPLICATION Before you spend money and effort to prepare a water right application, we strongly encourage you to engage in a pre-application consultation with our staff. We want to understand your water supply needs and give you our perspective on risks, opportunities, and alternatives. Pre-application is not required but highly recommended. If you choose a pre-application consultation meeting, we can learn more about your proposed project and inform you of issues related to the decision on your application, such as:
  • Water availability.
  • The status of pending applications.
  • Anticipated processing timelines.
  • Application requirements, fees, and information needs.
  • Water resource regulations specific to your location.
  • Alternatives.
  • Qualifications for priority processing.
  • Cost reimbursement options.
  • Ecology contacts.
  • Download and complete the Pre-Application Consultation Form. Do your best to complete all sections of the form and we will discuss any incomplete sections at the meeting.
  • E-mail the completed Water Right Pre-Application Consultation Form to the appropriate regional office address on the form. If you cannot e-mail the completed form, please mail it to the appropriate regional office. Wait for Ecology to contact you. Our goal is to contact you within 5 business days to confirm receipt of your pre-application request. We will schedule a meeting or phone call to discuss your water supply needs.
You can invite any professional staff (e.g., engineers, hydrogeologists, or attorneys) to answer technical questions Ecology staff may have.
Where can I get the application for this permit?
The application is called 'Application for a Surface Reservoir Permit' is online and can be accessed at
Do I need to include anything with my application?
The application form may specify reports, maps, and other information you should submit with your application.
Is the decision on my permit dependent on anything besides the information in my application?
When making the decision on your permit, Ecology will consider the applicable laws and rules, the contents of your application, and the background environmental conditions.
How long will it take to review my application?
The time it takes Ecology to review your application will depend on:
  • Water location
  • Water availability
  • Project complexity
  • Other applications competing for the same source of water.
A significant backlog of pending water right applications exist in many watersheds. However, opportunities to expedite processing are available via the cost reimbursement process. In addition, an application may qualify for priority processing due to public health or environmental reasons (See Chapter 173-152 WAC).
Where do I submit my application?
See the pre-application consultation process instructions above. If you skip the pre-application process, mail the Application for a Surface Reservoir Permit with a $50.00 check to: 

Department of Ecology
Cashiering Section
PO Box 47611
Olympia, WA 98504-7611
How long is my permit valid?
A reservoir permit must be put to use within a timeframe specified by the permit development schedule. Once the permit has been put to use, the state may issue a Reservoir Certificate. A Reservoir Certificate is a property right and will remain in good standing as long as use continues. A water right may lapse if there is a prolonged period of nonuse, (generally five years) unless you qualify for an exception as provided in RCW 90.14.140. Unless otherwise specified, a reservoir permit will allow the permittee to fill the reservoir once a year. The permit specifically states the period during which the reservoir can be filled.
What is the appeal process for the permit?
An order, permit, license, or decision can be appealed within 30 days from the “date of receipt” of the decision. The appeal process is governed by Chapter 43.21B RCW and Chapter 371-08 WAC.  “Date of receipt” is defined in RCW 43.21B.001(2). Get more information on the Pollution Control Hearings Board web page.
Legal Authority:
Permit Timeliness Results

Permit Timeliness data collection is in response to a State Auditor’s Performance Audit and RCW 43.42A. Each regulatory agency developed a plan to improve permit clarity, predictability, and timeliness. Each agency considers the customers experience to ensure permit assistance is simple to use, easy to access, and designed in a customer-friendly manner. Agencies report progress to the Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance (ORIA). ORIA prepares and distributes reports, with participation from the State Auditor’s Office and Results Washington. See latest report here:

All permits submitted for reporting were entered into this Regulatory Handbook. Here are the results of the performance data:

Estimated Time Required By the Agency to Process a Permit Application (Definition)
Average number of days from Receipt to Complete: 22
Maximum number of days from Receipt to Complete: 119

Estimated Time Required By the Agency to Issue a Permit Decision (Definition)
Average number of days from Complete Application to Decision: 3741
Maximum number of days from Complete Application to Decision: 6847

(Summary results based on 6 submittals in 2023)

Where can I get permitting assistance?
Web page URL:
Subject matter expert phone: Contacts
Department of Ecology
Water Resources Program
300 Desmond Drive
PO Box 47600
Olympia, WA 98504-7600
Fax: (360) 407-7162
Telephone: (360) 407-6872
Triggering Questions:
  • Are you planning to create a reservoir in which to store water?
* Permit information last updated 8/21/2023