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Transferring Water Rights
existing rights for new uses
 
The use of water under a water right is restricted to the terms and conditions described in the water right certificate: place of use, point of diversion, and type of use. For example, if a water right holder establishes the right to irrigate a particular 20-acre tract of land, the water  cannot be diverted from a different point or source, nor can it be used to irrigate other land. It cannot be used for any other purpose than the type of use indicated in the water right.
 
The water right holder must file a transfer application with the Department to change a point of diversion, point of appropriation, type of use, place of use, or any combination of these.
 
Permanent Transfers
An application for a permanent transfer generally requires a map prepared by a certified water right examiner (CWRE). The applicant must submit an application describing the current water right, the proposed change, and provide evidence of water use, land ownership or consent by the landowner, and, in most cases, compliance with local land use plans. The water may continue to be used in accordance with the current water right until the transfer is approved. Use as proposed may only occur once the transfer order is issued.
 
To approve a transfer application, the Department must determine that the proposed change will not injure other water rights. The public is offered a chance to comment and protest a proposed transfer if they believe an existing water right would be injured. The Department, working with the applicant, may attach conditions to an approval order to eliminate potential injury to other water rights. If conditional approval will not eliminate injury, the application is denied.
 

After the transfer is approved, the applicant must make the change. In the case of a change in use or place of use, any portion of the water right involved in the transfer that is not changed is lost. Following completion of the change, a CWRE must prepare a final proof map and site report to be submitted with the applicant’s claim of beneficial use. The map and claim of beneficial use describe the completed change and the extent of the modified water right. A new water right certificate will be issued to confirm the modified water right.
 
Temporary Transfers
A water user may temporarily change the place of use of a water right to allow a right attached to one parcel of land to be used on another parcel. A temporary transfer may not exceed a period of five years. This type of transfer is typically used for crop rotations or other rotational uses of water. The application for a temporary transfer is the same as the permanent transfer, however the required map does not have to be prepared by a CWRE.
 
Except under limited circumstances, Oregon law does not authorize a temporary change in the type of use of a water right. A temporary point of diversion change may be made if it is necessary to convey water for a temporary change in place of use. The Department can revoke a temporary transfer if the change results in injury to other water rights.
 
Other Transfers
If a government action causes a change in surface water levels that impairs the use of an authorized point of diversion, a special transfer process is available to change the point of diversion. This process is available for both certificated water rights and permits.
 
If an individual (not a company, government body, or other entity) has been using a diversion point for over ten years that is not the authorized point of diversion, the individual may request an abbreviated transfer process to change the certificated point of diversion to the current point of diversion. This change may only be made if there have been no complaints about the alternate point of diversion and if 
the change can take place without causing  injury to other water rights.
 
District Transfers
Irrigation districts and certain other districts that deliver water may apply for a specific kind of transfer that allows the district to make several transfers in a single annual application. Districts may take control and transfer unused water rights within the district after specific notification to the landowner. Districts may also transfer a point of diversion for one irrigation season in the event that an emergency prevents the district from diverting at the authorized point of diversion.
 
Transfers and Leases for Instream Use
Water rights may be transferred or leased for instream uses. Instream transfers and leases must show that injury will not occur and that a beneficial use will be made of the water, such as fishery habitat or flow augmentation to improve water quality. Instream transfers and leases carry the priority date of the original right. The water may not be diverted by any junior user while it is an instream right or lease.
 
Permanent Instream Transfers
The instream water right statutes allow a water right to be permanently transferred to instream use or transferred for a specific period of time. At the end of a time-limited instream transfer, the right automatically reverts back to its original place and type of use. Time-limited instream transfers are generally used for periods of time exceeding five years; otherwise, the instream leasing process is the preferred option.
 
Instream Leasing
The instream leasing program allows water right holders a way to protect water rights that are currently unused while  also providing instream benefits. Leases go through an expedited review process. The term of an instream use lease cannot exceed five years, but it may be renewed.
 

Split season leasing allows for both instream and existing uses to occur from the same water right, but at different times of the year with appropriate measurement and monitoring to prevent enlargement or injury.
 
Water rights for surface water use, storage, the use of stored water, and water saved through the conserved water program (see page 37) may be leased instream.
 
Ground Water Registration Modifications
Ground water registrations are claims for rights to use ground water established prior to 1955 and for which the Department has issued certificates of registration. The Department may recognize a change in use, place of use, or point of appropriation for a ground water registration if the Department determines that the change will not injure other water rights.
 
Recognition of a modification in a ground water registration does not confirm the right, which can only be confirmed in a future adjudication proceeding.  Pending that determination, the holder of a registration may use ground water as described in the certificate of registration, or as modified by the Department’s recognition of changes. 
Commission and Department
 
1. Oregon Water Laws
water management in Oregon
 
2. Protections and Restrictions
managing water appropriations
 
3. New Water Rights
gaining authorization to use water
 
4. Other Water Rights
authorization for water use
 
5. Transferring Rights
existing rights for new users
 
6. Canceling Rights
loss of water rights through non-use
 
7. Conservation
encouraging efficient water use
 
8. Finding Water Rights
determining if you have a water right
 
9. Enforcing Water Laws
watermasters and field staff protecting rights and resources
 
10. Region Managers and Offices
 
11. Fees
 
Appendix A
other development permits
 
Water Measurement Conversions