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Regulatory Handbook -> Water Resource Permits -> Surface Reservoir Permit

Surface Reservoir Permit

What is the Purpose of this Permit?
The reservoir permit provides a legal water right to fill a constructed impoundment. 
Who Issues this Permit?
Department of Ecology
What Activities Require this Permit?
A reservoir permit is required 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. 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.
How Much Will this Permit Cost?
Fees vary depending on amount of water. There is a minimum $50 application fee. The fee to appropriate new water will be assessed at the rate of $1 per one hundredth cubic foot per second (cfs), and the fee for new water-storage projects will be $2 per acre-foot of storage. The maximum application fee to appropriate or store water is $25,000.
Where Can I Get the Application for this Permit?
The application which is called 'Application for a Surface Reservoir Permit' is online and can be accessed at
Do I Need to Include Anything with my Application?
You should include the minimum $50 filing fee together with your application. Ecology will notify you if there are any additional fees due. BUT as application fees are non-refundable, Ecology strongly urges you to take part in a Pre-application Consultation before spending the money, time, and effort to complete and file your application.
  • 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 form to If you cannot e-mail to us, mail the completed form to the appropriate regional office. 
  • Wait for Ecology to contact you to schedule a meeting or phone call with our regional office. Our goal is to contact you within 48 hours. In most cases, a meeting will be held within 10 business days following the submission of the pre-application consultation form.
Is the Decision on my Permit Dependent on Anything Besides the Information in my Application?
Ecology will consider the applicable laws and rules, the contents of your application, and the background environmental conditions. The process also requires publication of a legal notice for two succeeding weeks.
If you schedule a pre-application consultation meeting, we can learn more about your proposed project and to provide you with information about issues that relate to the decision on your application, such as:
  • Water availability and the need for secondary water right permits. 
  • The status of pending applications. 
  • Anticipated processing timeline. 
  • Application requirements, fees, and information needs. 
  • Water resource regulations specific to your location. 
  • Alternatives. 
  • Qualifications for priority processing. 
  • Cost reimbursement options. 
  • Ecology contacts.
You can bring any professional staff (e.g., engineers, hydrogeologists or attorneys) that you feel are necessary to address technical questions which Ecology staff may have.
How Long Will it Take to Review my Application?
There is no statutorily or administratively prescribed decision timelines for processing reservoir permit applications. The actual time will vary according to location, water availability, complexity, and the number of other applications competing for the same source of water.
A significant backlog of pending water right applications exists and the average reservoir application has been pending for more than 14 years. 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). Finally, some reservoir applications may meet the criteria of RCW 90.03.370(1)(b) for expedited processing.
Where do I Submit my Application?
E-mail the completed form to If you cannot e-mail it to us, mail the completed form to the appropriate regional office.

After you have completed the preapplication process, mail your $50.00 check and application 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's 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 there is good cause.
What is the Appeal Process for the Permit?
An applicant or any interested party has a right to appeal this permit to the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) within 30 days of the date of receipt of this permit. 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).
You must also comply with other applicable requirements in Chapter 43.21B RCW and Chapter 371-08 WAC.
Read the Pollution Control Board’s Appeal Process web page for more details.
Notes / Comments:
A new Reservoir Permit Application is coming soon.
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: 1
Maximum number of days from Receipt to Complete: 1

Estimated Time Required By the Agency to Issue a Permit Decision (Definition)
Average number of days from Complete Application to Decision: 528
Maximum number of days from Complete Application to Decision: 770

(Summary results based on 2 submittals in 2021)

Where can I get permitting assistance?
Subject matter expert phone: Contacts
Statewide Contact:
Department of Ecology
Water Resources Program
300 Desmond Drive
PO Box 47600
Olympia, WA 98504-7600
Fax: (360) 407-7162
Telephone: (360) 407-6872
* Permit information last updated 12/1/2022
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