Fighting Climate Change & Its Effects

Continue improving the state and local governmental programs empowered to protect the quality and quantity of our water including municipal water, groundwater, and in-stream flows.

Issue Team Chair: Martin Gibbins, 361-5007
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2020 Legislative Session Wrap Up
(Interested in the 2019 Session Recap? Click Here)

As many communities across the nation have discovered, we must be vigilant in maintaining water purity and make sure our government representatives are applying due attention to addressing current challenges and preventing future ones. With increasing population and the effects of climate change, our supplies of fresh water are under stress. Abundant and pure water assures healthy people, safe recreation, healthy wildlife, and productive agriculture.

Our legislative goals for the 2020 session were to continue improving the quality and abundance of our state’s water including municipal water, ground water, and in-stream flows. Four bills appear on their way into Washington law. Bills we supported but did not pass we hope will be revived in the next session because they will continue progress toward ensuring clean and healthy water in Washington.

For other water-related bills see the companion page on Rivers & Forests

Click on Bill # for detailed information.  See UPDATES below.

Bills the League Supported That Have Been Signed Into Law
  • HB 2265  Eliminates remaining state exemptions for including PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substance) components in firefighting foams when no longer required by federal law. This means phasing out PFAS from firefighting foams used in Washington. Alternatives to PFAS in these foams are now available. PFAS has contaminated several drinking water sources in the state and poses health risks to firefighters.  The Governor signed the bill on March 18. The effective date is June 11, 2020
  • HB 1165  Encourages low-water landscaping practices as a drought alleviation tool and prohibits homeowners associations and similar organizations from penalizing a homeowner or resident from installing water-efficient or wildfire ignition-resistant landscaping or restricting landscape watering during a state-issued drought condition order.   The Governor signed the bill on March 18. The effective date is June 11, 2020.   
  • ESSB 5323  Reducing pollution from plastic bags. These sources of pollution may not represent a large problem for water quality, but they do degrade our water environment for recreation and wildlife, and studies have found micro-plastics in drinking water. Thirty-seven municipalities in the state already have prohibited  thin plastic grocery and goods carry-out bags. This bill makes such regulations uniform across the state, a condition grocery organizations prefer, and exempts plastic bags for bulk goods, produce, and damp grocery items. Paper and thicker plastic carryout bags are permitted, but are subject to a pass-through charge to the customer. After passing the Senate, The House passed an amended version that refined and clarified details and emphasized an orderly transition of bag manufacturing. The Governor signed the bill on March 25. Various parts of the bill implement on various dates, with the ban on the thin plastic bags commencing on Jan 1, 2021.  
  • HB 1622 creates tools and resources to build long-term drought resiliency among water users and communities, improve the State’s ability to respond to droughts in the short term, and codify many of the best practices identified in the updated 2018 Washington Plan developed collaboratively between eight state agencies. This bill was requested by the Department of Ecology, and supported by the Department of Health, Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Washington State Association of Counties, and the Washington Farm Bureau. The Governor signed the bill on March 18. The effective date is June 11, 2020.

Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass

  • HB 1860 Addressing lead in drinking water in schools. No amount of lead contamination is safe, especially for children, and our schools should have the purest water available. This passed the House Committee on Education, but the Appropriations Committee increased the maximum lead levels from 5 ppb to 9 ppb and made other changes including delaying the option to lower the level until 2030. These changes began to attract opposition. School administrators expressed opposition to the amended version due to the additional effort schools would face in testing and reporting. We had concerns about weakening the requirements and documented those concerns to the  Early Learning & K-12 Education committee. We hope a strong version can pass next session.
  • SB 6278 Water withdrawals for commercial bottled water production. This bill limited water extraction from critical sources merely for the purpose of bottling for commercial sale. It exempted water used for value-added beverages such as soft drinks and tea.  The beverage industry testified against the bill due to concerns that the precedent will lead to more restrictions on their opportunities for business growth and limits on choice for consumers. We maintain that small community water supplies will be better protected and the Department of Ecology will have needed authority to limit or approve such water rights when indicated by conditions. The House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources declined to move this bill forward.  
  • SB 6342 Chemical contaminants in drinking water. Required the Department of Health to refine the upper limits for PFAS contamination in water systems and requires the water systems to monitor for these contaminates. A substitute bill was introduced in the Senate that required the Department of Health to refine the upper limits for PFAS in public water systems, but removed proposed requirements to regulate chromium, and dioxane. Risks of not acting include continued PFAS exposure to water system customers.  Potential costs of the bill include contaminate testing for PFAS and reacting to findings of contamination. The bill passed the Senate. The House Environment & Energy Committee passed a substitute bill that decreased the number of water systems required to perform testing to those near known PFAS contamination, delayed the implementation schedule, and authorized the Department of Health to determine corrective action and notification for exceedances. The House Appropriations Committee did not act on the bill.
  • HB 1853 Developing and coordinating a statewide don't drip and drive program. Non-point runoff, such as motor oil dripping from vehicles, is a primary source of pollution in our streams, lakes, and shorelines. This bill expands to statewide a program that reduces auto fluid leakage by encouraging leak identification and repair. The short-term cost avoidance of not maintaining motor vehicles to minimize leaks is more than offset by the cost transferred to those who depend on clean water sources, plus the future liability of purifying needlessly polluted water. The House Committee on Transportation passed a substitute bill which delayed some key milestones. That bill passed the House and the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, but the Senate Ways and Means Committee declined to act.
  • HB 2550 Establishing net ecological gain as a policy for application across identified land use, development, and environmental laws. This bill is part of the Healthy Habitat, Healthy Orcas priority of the Environmental Priorities Coalition. State policy to change from no-net-loss to a standard of net ecological gain for development and land use actions. The intent is to ensure development actions show a parallel improvement in the habitat for wildlife such as salmon. A  substitute bill passed the House Committee on Environment & Energy, but the House Appropriations Committee declined to take action by cutoff. Proponents indicated that the opposition to additional regulation would lead to a long debate on the House floor and consume time available for voting on less controversial bills. This is a big disappointment for progress on our environmental health.

  • HB 1747 Risk-based water quality standards for on-site non-potable water systems. Unfortunately, this bill was not assigned to a policy committee in 2020, so it died for this biennium. We hope to revive the concept in 2021.

  • SB 6147 Replacement of shoreline armoring. This requires considering the least impactful alternative for protecting fish life in residential projects intended to replace marine shoreline armoring, such as sea walls or other measures to protect structures from shoreline erosion. The requirements represent a step toward improving shoreline habitat over time.  The bill passed the Senate and was pulled to the House floor, but no vote was taken.

Bill the League Watched That Did Not Pass

  • HB 2603 SB 6494   These bills address water rights management and transfers, topics which are very complicated, shaded by decades of practice, and steeped in case law. We will continue our analysis. Neither bill passed their chambers of origin so are dead for the biennium, but the details will probably be refined and appear again in 2021.   

Bill the League Opposed That Did Not Pass

  • SB 6036  Providing opportunities for drought mitigation using trust water rights. We opposed this bill because we believe the Department of Ecology is in the best position to assign available water rights to the optimum uses. It was never scheduled for a committee vote.

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