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Water Rights

Under Oregon law, all water is publicly owned. Landowners with water flowing past, through or under their property do not automatically have the right to use that water without a permit from the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD). With some exceptions, cities, farmers, factory owners and other users must obtain a permit or water right from OWRD to use water from any source – whether it is from an underground or aboveground source. Water rights are required if property owners are interested in using surface or groundwater for non-domestic uses. A water right is required to irrigate more than a half acre. Most ponds require a water right to store water and a water right is also required to use the water stored in the pond. If you don’t use your water right within five years, you could lose it. Property owners are encouraged to research their water rights by contacting OWRD. 

Ground Water Exempt Uses

Stock watering. Irrigation of less than ½ acre of noncommercial lawn or garden. Single or group domestic use of less than 15,000 gallons per day. Single commercial or industrial use of less than 5,000 gallons per day. 

Surface Water Exempt Uses

Qualified reclaimed water uses. Qualified stock water uses. Emergency fire-fighting. Certain forest management activities. Certain diversions that promote soil conservation.

How to Obtain a Water Right

Water rights are obtained in a three-step process. 

  1. Apply to OWRD for a water use permit.
  2. Once a permit is granted, construct a water system and begin water use. 
  3. Hire a certified water right examiner to complete a survey, submit a map, and file a report to OWRD. A water right certificate will be issued if water has been used according to the provisions of the permit.