Water Users Challenge Constitutionality of 2003 Water Statute

Groups ask Attorney General to take steps to invalidate portions of Municipal Water Law 1338


Patti Goldman, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext. 32
Tom Geiger, Washington Environmental Council, (206) 622-8103, ext. 203

A coalition of water users, fishers, and conservation groups today asked state Attorney General Rob McKenna to begin the process of eliminating unconstitutional provisions of Municipal Water Law 1338, passed by the legislature in 2003.

The groups argue that MWL 1338 violates both the state and federal constitutions, infringing the separation of powers and due process.

MWL 1338, among other provisions, makes it possible for land developers to be classified as “municipal water suppliers,” and then, as municipalities, gain special rights not available to other water users. This effectively pushes existing, junior water rights holders, such as farmers and orchardists, to the back of the line and harms their livelihoods when water runs short. Likewise, MWL can allow increased diversion of water from rivers and streams and thereby harm the salmon and other species that depend on strong flows of water.

MWL 1338 is also being challenged by a group of Native American Tribes.

“Water is a precious commodity, already in short supply, even in the state of Washington,” said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice, who represents the organizations filing the petition today. “Leapfrogging large developers to the head of the line when it comes to handing out water rights is unfair, it is unwise, and it makes a difficult situation even worse. It doesn’t increase the supply of water. What we need is conservation and better water management.”

The groups have offered to work with Mr. McKenna to resolve the problems created by this law.  

Read the petition to the attorney general.

Read Questions and Answers on Municipal Water Law 1338.

Read short case studies of the impacts of the law and about two cities with drastically different water-use patterns

Visit a webpage by Waterplanet that explores the issues in depth.

Visit another page, this by the Center for Environmental Law and Policy

See the Washington Environmental Council’s roundup of information on this matter.

Additional Resources

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