Watershed Regulations

Watershed Closure Information:

For parcels within the Lake Whatcom, Lake Samish and Lake Padden watersheds, the last day that permits can be issued is September 15, 2017 due to the closure that begins October 1st.  Also, no activities which expose more than 500 sq. ft. of soil (in total) are permitted from October 1st through May 31st.  Click here for more information.

New Stormwater Regulations - 2016

On October 11, 2016, the Whatcom County Council adopted new regulations regarding stormwater management in Whatcom County. These regulations are designed to normalize the stormwater requirements, provide compliance with the County's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II Permit (Clean Water Act), recognize the impact of tree removal in Lake Whatcom, Lake Samish, and Lake Padden watersheds, and capture stormwater impacts from large projects in the rural areas.  These regulations went into effect on October 22, 2016. Read more information here.


Some of the watersheds of Whatcom County are protected through special districts. These special districts are overlay zones that impose regulatory controls that are designed to preserve and protect the unique character and long-term viability of the specific geographic areas that they have been applied to. These overlay zones are found in Title 20 of Whatcom County Code.

The overlay zones include Stormwater Special Districts, Water Resource Special Management Areas, and the Water Resource Protection Overlay District. Watersheds that are included vary by overlay zone, but at least one zone applies in Lake Whatcom, Lake Padden, Lake Samish, Birch Bay, Drayton Harbor Watersheds and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II areas. Watershed Closure Information: Please note for parcels within the Lake Whatcom, Lake Samish & Lake Padden Watersheds no permits can be issued after September 16, 2015 due the closure that begins October 1st. Click here for more information.
Watershed Map
Watershed Definition
A watershed is an area of land that contains a common network of interrelated components including wetlands, lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, floodplains, etc. that work together to move water and sediments through the landscape. Watersheds generally drain into a single body of water such as a lake, river, or an ocean.

Standards are specific to each of the watershed overlay zones and vary by watershed. In general the regulations are low impact development standards that are intended to protect a valuable resource, whether it be drinking water or aquatic habitat. See specific watershed pages for more information.