The Washington Supreme Court has overturned a decision by the state to grant new water rights to the city of Yelm to serve its growing population.
The court Thursday ruled 6-3 that the Department of Ecology exceeded its authority in approving Yelm’s water rights under a narrow exception in cases where water is limited.
In the majority opinion, Justice Charles Johnson wrote that municipal water needs do not rise to the level of overriding public interest.
Ecology spokesman Dan Partridge says the permit would have provided about 841,000 gallons of water per day, or enough water to serve 1,682 homes.
It’s not clear how the decision will affect the Thurston County city of about 7,500 people. A message left with Yelm’s mayor was not immediately returned.
Ecology officials say the case has statewide implications and it will look at alternative criteria in making future water decisions.