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Water Right Transfers
Purpose
There is growing interest in the state in the use of the water right transfer process as a tool to secure water to support growth and streamflow restoration. Transfers provide a method to change the point of diversion or appropriation, the place of use, or the beneficial use of the right from that for which the right was originally issued. The water right holder must obtain approval of a water right transfer from the Water Resources Department before making any of these changes.
 
In reviewing an application for a water right transfer, the Department is responsible for ensuring that other water right holders will not be injured as a result of the proposed change. Upon receipt of an application for a transfer, the Department issues a notice of the application to provide other water right holders an opportunity to identify any injury that would occur as a result of the transfer. In addition, Department staff review the application to determine if the proposed change will result in injury to other water rights.
 
The Department receives about 250 applications for water right transfers for out-of-stream uses and five applications for transfers to instream uses annually. These include approximately 50 irrigation district and other temporary transfers.
 
Currently there is a backlog of approximately 224 transfer applications on file with the Department that are pending review. The Department has increased the number of staff reviewing transfer applications and, as a result, the size of the backlog is being reduced. However, it continues to take the Department a significant period to begin review of new applications.
 
Irrigation districts have additional flexibility in changing the locations at which water rights are exercised. For example, irrigation districts may use a notification process rather than an application process to temporarily transfer the place of use of water rights. The district can begin applying the water at the new location once the notice has been filed with the Department. If the Department subsequently determines that the transfer was injurious, the Department will rescind the change.

Program Implementation
The water right holder initiates the water right transfer review process by completing and filing an application form and the required attachments. For most transfers, these attachments include a map prepared by a Certified Water Right Examiner (CWRE)--an individual who is certified to collect and report data and conduct surveys. To find a a CWRE in your area click The Certified Water Right Examiners Query.
 
For temporary transfers, the map must meet the standards in the rules, but need not be prepared by a certified water rights examiner. In addition, the Department may grant map waivers for a limited number of "fish friendly" transfers. These include instream transfers, transfers associated with projects funded by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and projects endorsed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as resulting in net benefits to fish and wildlife habitat. A request for a map waiver must be submitted on the Map Waiver Form (PDF 213 KB) and be signed by the OWRD Regional Manager for the area in which the water rights to be transferred are located.
 
Reimbursement Authority​ provides the Water Resources Department the ability to enter into a voluntary agreement with an applicant for expedited review and action on applications for water right transfers. Under such an agreement, the applicant pays the cost to hire additional staff, contract for services, or provide additional services to the applicant not otherwise available. Applicants interested in an estimate of the cost and timeline for expedited processing must submit a Reimbursement Authority Estimate Application (PDF 108KB) along with a fee of $125.00. For more information on expediting a transfer application, contact Sarah Henderson.
 

Links and Resources
Application Forms
  • Acrobat Reader versions of the Water Right Transfer Application and Supplemental Forms are available on the Department's forms page

Other Information


Authority
ORS 540.510 to 540.532, 540.545, 540.570 and 540.572 to 540.580 and
ORS 541.327 and 541.329
OAR Chapter 690, Division 380 and Division 385