While permit-exempt wells represent a source of water for many landowners in the North Olympic Peninsula, withdrawals through these wells affect groundwater supply, thus affecting salmon habitat.

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe explores the real-time use of this resource in its chapter of the State of Our Watersheds report.

Legally, property owners are allowed to withdraw water for domestic purposes without obtaining a water right. There are 1,003 wells that affect groundwater supply and instream flows in the Lower Elwha Area of Concern.


Between 1980 and 2009, 801 wells were completed at a rate of about 27 new wells per year. Most of these wells are concentrated in the smaller developable area north of Olympic National Park.

Since then, 51 wells have been added at a lower rate of about 10 new wells per year. The number of wells has increased since 2010 but the rate of increase has slowed.

From the report:

According to estimates by the Washington State Office of Financial Management, the population of WRIA 18 grew by only 1.6% between 2010 and 2014.1 The reduced rate of increase for wells may be because of this slow population growth, a lesser dependence on wells for their water supply by landowners, or the result of a slowdown in economic activities during that time period or a combination of these factors.

Despite the slowing pace of installed wells, these groundwater withdrawals may reduce instream flows of surface water, and impact water quantity and quality, as well freshwater and marine habitat for salmon, shellfish and related species.