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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Masters Field Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Melious, Jean O.

Second Advisor

Kamel, Nabil

Third Advisor

Zaferatos, Nicholas C. (Nicholas Christos)


Whatcom County, Washington is currently under pressure to develop a water resource management plan to come into compliance with Washington State law, including recent legislation set forth in Engrossed Senate Substitute Bill (ESSB) 6091 (January 18,2018). ESSB 6091 requires Whatcom County to engage in a planning process to mitigate for water withdrawals for new permit-exempt wells and to ensure that new water users over a twenty-year period do not result in decreased ecological function of instream resources. It responds to the Washington State Supreme Court’s recent decision in Whatcom County v. Hirst, Futurewise, et al, often referred to as the “Hirst” case. Hirst ruled that Whatcom County failed to protect rural character as required by the GMA because its Comprehensive Plan did not include measures that would adequately protect water quality and quantity. The GMA requires Whatcom County to contain or otherwise control rural development and protect surface water and groundwater resources. The purpose of this policy analysis is to discuss and compare three policy options that are proposed to Whatcom County as possible solutions to address the requirements in Hirst and ESSB 6091. These policy options are the construction of reservoirs to provide water storage capacity, the extension of existing public water supplies to serve areas that do not have such service, and the development of a water banking program. Three criteria will be used to evaluate each policy option: cost-effectiveness, implementation/feasibility, and compliance with law. Of the three options that are commonly proposed answers to Whatcom County’s problems of water shortage and depleted instream flows, water banking is the recommended policy solution. In addition, comprehensive planning and conservation are recommended to help ensure the success of any policy intended to address water scarcity problems. Other options for water resource management likely exist and could be applied to Whatcom County. Due to research and time limitations, a narrowed focus on three policy options allowed for initial determination of an effective policy solution.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Water resources development--Government policy--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Wells--Government policy--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Water demand management--Government policy--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Water-supply--Management--Government policy--Washington (State)--Whatcom County

Geographic Coverage

Whatcom County (Wash.)




masters theses




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