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Water Rights

Learning About and Applying for Water Rights

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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.

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Find a Certified Water Right Examiner

In some instances, such as applying for a Standard Reservoir Permit (i.e., any reservoir storing more than 9.2 acre feet and with a dam more than 10 feet high) or applying for a Water Right Transfer, you may need help from a Certified Water Right Examiner. 

 

Additionally, once construction associated with a water project has been completed and full beneficial use of water under a water use permit or transfer has been accomplished, the water user 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 or transfer, a water right certificate is issued based upon the report findings. This individual that prepares the map and report of water use (also known as a claim of beneficial use) is certified to collect and report data and conduct surveys. 
To find a Certified Water Right Examiner in your area, click Certified Water Right Examiners Query.
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Access Water Right Data and Maps

The Department has a variety of online tools for accessing information about water rights.  Our main tool is the Water Rights Information System.  This database allows for summary reports as well as detailed information on individual water rights.  Our Water Right Mapping page provides a geographical look at water rights and related data.   To access water rights by township, range and section please use our Plat Card Report utility.   A trip to our Vault provides access to scanned images of original documents and maps.
 
To decipher several of the codes and abbreviations used in our databases, use the key.

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Find Out if a Property has a Water Right

There are several methods that can be used to determine whether a piece of property has a water right.  The appropriate method depends upon the information you have.  The Department has developed step-by-step instructions to help utilize the Water Right Mapping page.  To access the most common methods for determining whether a piece of property has a water right, click How to Find a Water Right on a Piece of Property.
DISCLAIMER: The information reflected in the Water Right Mapping page is derived by interpretations of paper records.  Please refer to the actual water right record for the details on any water right.  Care was taken in the creation of the data but is provided “as is”. The Water Resources Department cannot accept any responsibility for errors, omission, or accuracy of the information.  There are no warranties, expressed or implied, including the warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose, accompanying this information.  However, notification of any errors would be appreciated.
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Water Availability Report System

Water Availability Report System - Estimated streamflow and surface water availability in Oregon.  Water availability is the amount of water that can be appropriated from a given point on a given stream for new out-of-stream consumptive uses.  It is obtained from the natural stream flow by subtracting existing in-stream water rights and out-of-stream consumptive uses.   For a detailed description of the Water Availability Report program and the methodology used to develop it, you may review the report titled Determining Water Availability in Oregon (PDF 4.7 MB). 

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Water Use Report

Click here for more information about the Water Use Reporting program.

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Gold Mining: Frequently Asked Questions

 
Will I need authorization from Oregon Water Resources Department to use water for my mining activity?
 
In order to divert and use the waters of Oregon, you must first obtain authorization, such as a permit or limited license, from the Water Resources Department.  
 
In-channel mining activities that affect, but do not divert, water do not generally require a water use permit.  This would include some common mining activities such as using a sluice box or suction dredge within the wetted perimeter of the stream.
 
 
Which gold mining activities require authorization from the Water Resources Department?
 
Diversion of water for mining activities outside the wetted perimeter requires a water use authorization.  Examples of mining activities outside of the wetted perimeter include high banking or placer mining.  This type of activity generally requires the use of water to dislodge rock material or move sediment.  Since this involves the diversion and use of water, this type of mining would require a water right.

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Wetlands: Frequently Asked Questions

Wetlands Fact Sheet  [PDF 37 KB]

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Resources for Certified Water Right Examiners

Resources for Certified Water Right Examiners will provide help and resources in preparation of application maps and Claim of Beneficial Use forms.

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Drought Watch

For current water conditions in Oregon, water conservation information, and Emergency Drought Permit forms, go to the Drought Watch website.

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