Under Oregon law, all water is publicly owned. With some exceptions, cities, farmers, factory owners and other users must obtain a permit or water right from the Water Resources Department to use water from any source— whether it is underground, or from lakes or streams. 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 Department.
Water rights are obtained in a three-step process. The applicant first must apply to the Department for a permit to use water. Once a permit is granted, the applicant must construct a water system and begin using water. When water is applied, the permit holder must hire a certified water right examiner to complete a survey of water use and submit to the Department a map and report detailing how and where water is being applied. If water has been used according to the provisions of the permit, a water right certificate is issued based upon the report findings.
For a brief overview of water rights and water law in Oregon, click Aqua Book
For forms to apply for a water right, click water right application forms
When applying to the Department, you may need help from a Certified Water Right Examiner. This individual is certified to collect and report data and conduct surveys. To find one in your area, click Certified Water Right Examiners Query
After an application is submitted to the Department, a notice is published and comments may be made from either the public and/or other state agencies. To view the latest public notices for Water Right activities, access the Water Rights Public Notice