What is water right mitigation?

The allocation of surface and ground water resources for out of stream uses via the western water rights doctrine of prior appropriation comes with serious environmental consequences – depletion of streamflow and aquifers. Over-appropriation by water rights has led to deleterious impacts on natural resources, including salmon survival, water quality, and public uses of state waterways.

Because of the over-appropriated condition of Washington’s rivers and aquifers, the issuance of new water rights has until recently required water-for-water or in-kind mitigation, with the goal to directly compensate for deleterious impacts. Historically, the Water Resources Program of the Department of Ecology has defined this mitigation as “replacing the amount of water being used with an equal amount of water, bucket for bucket.”