Hirst Decision

Hirst Decision

In October 2016, a Washington State Supreme Court decision changed how counties decide to approve or deny building permits that use wells for a water source.

In the Whatcom County vs. Hirst, Futurewise, et al. decision (often referred to as the Hirst decision), the court ruled that the county failed to comply with the Growth Management Act (GMA) requirements to protect water resources. The ruling requires the county to make an independent decision about legal water availability.

Essentially, a county planning under GMA cannot issue a building permit that would depend on an exempt well—even if Ecology’s rule allows exempt wells—without showing that the well will not impair certain rivers and streams or a senior water right.

Washington Realtors Video Explaining Hirst Decision

County By County Breakdown

Under the Hirst court ruling, individual counties have been directed to each find ways they will allow water use to build homes. This requirement has created uncertainty for counties, rural communities, and many others impacted by the decision.

Washington State Department of Ecology Contacts

Northwest Region
Island, King, Kitsap, San Juan
Skagit and Snohomish counties
Tom Buroker

Northwest Region (Bellingham)
Whatcom County
Doug Allen

Southwest Region
Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor,
Jefferson, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce,
Skamania, Thurston and
Wahkiakum counties
Mike Gallagher

Eastern Region
Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Ferry,
Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Lincoln,
Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens,
Walla Walla and Whitman counties
Keith Stoffel

Central Region
Benton, Chelan, Douglas,
Kittitas, Klickitat, Okanogan
and Yakima counties
Trevor Hutton


Communications/Media Contact
Brook Beeler