Benton County Rural Water Supply Program

The Benton County Rural Water Supply Program went into effect on February 1, 2020. This program was established to provide mitigation for any new residential use within the Mitigation Area.

Background
The Department of Ecology has determined that the Lower Yakima watershed is over appropriated and has required Counties within the watershed to mitigate for groundwater wells being placed within the Lower Yakima watershed. Kittitas and Yakima County have already established water programs to mitigate and meter residential wells in the unincorporated areas of their counties.

In 2017, the Department of Ecology notified Benton County that the County’s rural water supply is at risk of impairment to senior water right holders and encouraged the County to take steps to develop a rural water supply program similar to those developed by Kittitas County and Yakima County. Recent studies conducted by State and Federal agencies have shown that groundwater wells in the Lower Yakima Watershed are in direct hydraulic continuity with the Yakima River.

In 2018, FutureWise appealed the County’s 2017 update to the Comprehensive Plan on the basis of a lack of water availability. As a result of the appeal, the County and FutureWise entered into a settlement agreement and the County agreed to develop a water supply program in order to mitigate for impacts on the Yakima River from residential exempt wells that have hydraulic continuity with the Yakima River.

The Benton County Rural Water Supply Program was established to provide mitigation for any new residential use within the Mitigation Area (a portion of the Lower Yakima Watershed known as WRIA 37, as shown on the official Benton County Mitigation Area Map – attached) in the form of acquiring senior water rights in order to offset groundwater use and managing the metering of wells.

To date the County has acquired 125 acre-feet of senior water rights and is in the process of acquiring additional water rights for the Benton County Water Bank.

About the Rural Water Supply Program
The Benton County Rural Water Supply Program went into effect on February 1, 2020. Customers wishing to apply for a new subdivision, short plat, or residential building permit for a dwelling unit within the Mitigation Area will be required to participate in the Program.

The Benton County Water Bank will have three (3) packages available for water mitigation:

  1. PACKAGE A: Available only to those parcels with access to outdoor irrigation. Package A allows an average of two hundred (200) gallons of water use per day for indoor domestic use only.
  2. PACKAGE B: Parcels without access to irrigation water may choose Package B which allows an average of three hundred (300) gallons of water use per day for indoor domestic use and outdoor irrigation of an area up to 1500 square feet.
  3. PACKAGE C: Parcels without access to irrigation water may choose Package C which allows an average of four hundred (400) gallons of water use per day for indoor domestic use and outdoor irrigation of an area up to 3000 square feet.

Customers who are required to purchase mitigation certificates as part of a subdivision/short plat application will be required to purchase a mitigation certificate for each proposed lot of the subdivision/short plat before the plat will be approved.

Customers who are required to purchase a mitigation certificate as a condition of a building permit shall be required to purchase a mitigation certificate and a meter for their residential well. They will also be required to agree to participate in the metering component of the Water Supply Program which will include monitoring of water use.

For more information about the Benton County Rural Water Supply Program, please contact Michelle Cooke, Senior Planner, Benton County Planning Department at 509-786-5612 or email planning.department@co.benton.wa.us.

Documents and More Information
Rural Water Supply Program Map
Rural Water Supply Packet for New Construction
Rural Water Supply Packet for Subdivision/Shortplats

About Benton County
Benton County is located in south-central Washington. The county seat is located in Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. Benton County was created on March 8, 1905 and was named after U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Benton County operates under the plural executive form of government with three commissioners and seven other elected officials. Benton County has offices located in Prosser, Kennewick and Richland. For more information, please visit our website.

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