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Water Banks in Washington State: A Tool for Climate Resilience

Abstract: Water banks—a tool for exchanging senior water rights and offsetting new ones—can address multiple problems in contemporary water law. In the era of climate change, water banks enable needed flexibility and resilience in water allocation. As growing cities require new water rights, water banks can repurpose old water for new uses. These advantages should lead the Washington State Legislature to incentivize water banks, but in the 2018 “Hirst fix” it embraced habitat restoration as a false equivalent for water. The Legislature is rightfully concerned about the speculation that some private water banks allow. But overall, water banks enable new and productive uses while maintaining water in streams. Moving forward, Washington should embrace water banks for each unique basin’s needs.

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