In 1997 the Legislature authorized creation of water conservancy boards under Chapter 90.80 RCW (Water Conservancy Boards) to enable the processing of water-right transfer and change applications at the local level. This legislation allows counties to establish water conservancy boards as independent units of local government through resolution of the county or counties that it serves and approval by the Department of Ecology. All water conservancy board decisions are ultimately reviewed and affirmed, reversed, or modified by Ecology.
The Spokane County Water Conservancy Board consists of 5 commissioners. All board commissioners must receive training from the Department of Ecology before participating in any decision on a water-right transfer application. A water conservancy board can serve a single watershed, multiple watersheds, a county, or multiple counties. There are currently 17 water conservancy boards operating in Washington.