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Instream Leasing Program
Oregon’s instream leasing program provides a voluntary means to aid the restoration and protection of streamflows. This arrangement provides benefits both to water right holders and to instream values by providing water users with options that protect their water rights while leasing water for instream benefits.
Instream Benefits
Water users who are at risk of forfeiture of their water rights due to non-use may find instream leases to be a good management option. Instream water rights provide flows for fish and wildlife, scenic values, and improved water quality.

Eligible Water Rights
Most existing water rights are eligible to lease to instream use. However, to transfer water to instream uses, the transfer must not injure other existing water rights. Certificates and court decreed rights for surface water and water stored in a reservoir are eligible to lease to instream use. Water that is saved for use through the allocation of conserved water program may also be leased, as well as secondary rights for stored water.
Lease Application Process

If you are considering submitting a new Lease Application, contact the Oregon Water Resources Department field office nearest you. If you are not certain about the water rights proposed for leasing, staff in the field offices can help. Department data files contain up-to-date copies of water rights and related maps. For identifying existing water rights, be prepared to provide Department staff with the township, range and section in which the property associated with the water right is located.
Field office representatives will work with you in confirming water rights and completing the proper Lease Application Form. The Application type will depend on the nature of the water right(s) involved in the proposed lease. The available lease Application forms include:

  •       Standard Application Form is appropriate for leases involving water right(s) held by individual(s) and are initiated by submission of the Standard Application: (DOC 182 KB). If more than one water right is to be involved in the lease, an If more than one water right is involved in the lease, a separate Part 3 of 4  must be submitted for each of the additional water rights involved. 
  •       District Application Form for irrigation districts or other water right purveyors who wish to lease a water right from an individual property or group together and “pool”  multiple landowners on the same District Application: (DOC 120 KB).   If more than one water right is involved, a separate Part 4 of 4 must be submitted for each landowner, party to the application, a separate Part 3 of 4 must be submitted for each landowner/property.
  •       Renewal Application Form allows the extension an existing lease provided no other changes in the lease are proposed. To renew a lease, the Lessor or Lessee must submit a Renewal (DOC 73 KB)
  •       Split Season used if the water right is to be used for both the existing authorized purpose and for instream use during the same year. Such a lease can be initiated by submittal of a Split Season Lease Form: (DOC 96 KB)  (PDF 32 KB). A water right holder with a split season lease must measure and report to the Department the water used for the authorized purpose and for the instream use using the Split Season Lease Measurement Form: (DOC 85 KB)  (PDF 20 KB).

Important Note: You must have Microsoft Word on your computer to use the Word (DOC) versions of the application forms. In the absence of Word, the documents you download through the above link will be unreadable.

Frequently Asked Questions
What kinds of rights can be leased for instream use?
Water rights eligible to be leased are:
  • Rights to use surface water and rights to store water in a reservoir which have been established by court decree and certificate.
  • The conserver’s portion of conserved water allocated under the Allocation of Conserved Water Program.
  • Secondary rights to use stored water (permitted or certificated stored water rights may be leased).
How long can water rights be leased instream?
The length of term of an instream use lease cannot exceed five years or, in the case of irrigation rights, five irrigation seasons. However, leases may be renewed an unlimited number of times.
When leasing a primary right, can a supplemental right continue to be used?
No. Leases of rights for instream use will require the lessor to suspend use of both primary and supplemental sources under the subject water right during the term of the lease.
What about leasing a supplemental right and continuing to use a primary right?
Only when the water right to be leased is for supplemental use of legally stored water. The supplemental right to store water, which the right holder would have to characterize as excess water, is eligible to be leased. This is the only instance in which use under the primary right can continue.
Can a portion of a water right be leased?

Yes, if “portion of a water right” is defined as the portion that irrigates a distinct tract of land which, will not receive water during the term of the lease. A portion of a water right is not a percentage of a total seasonal volume. In other words, a user cannot use less water than usual to irrigate the traditional number of acres and then lease the remaining volume of water, unless a "Split-Season Use Instream Lease" is involved and the instream and existing use occur at different times.
Can an irrigation right be leased for instream use once an irrigation season has begun?

A Lease Agreement can be executed midway through an irrigation season if it is submitted prior to July 1. However, if the original right has been used to irrigate lands, it cannot be used instream during the same season, unless a "Split-Season Use Instream Lease" is involved. In this case, prior to water being used, the applicant must submit the lease application to the Department and must monitor and report the existing use). Thus, if irrigation has already taken place in a given season, a lease cannot take effect until the following irrigation season.
Does a “lease-created” instream use have to meet the same general criteria as one issued through the normal instream water right application process?

Yes. The new instream use must be consistent with the general provisions for instream water rights. The new instream use must serve a public use, as defined by rule. Allowable public uses include recreation, scenic attraction, aquatic and fish life, wildlife habitat and ecological values, pollution abatement and navigation.
What if an irrigation district plans to pool the water rights of several landowners for a single lease?

The irrigation district would submit a Pooled District Form to the Department. It must include landowner and water right information for each participating landowner. The Pooled Landowner Form serves as a contract between a landowner and an irrigation district. The irrigation district would submit a completed Pooled Landowner Form for each participating landowner as an addendum to its own completed Pooled District Form.
Do I risk loss of my water right if my lands are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program?
No. Water rights are generally subject to forfeiture after five years of non-use. However, the Department has issued a letter (PDF 22KB) concluding that water right appurtenant to lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) are not subject to forfeiture during the enrollment period. However, landowners may still want to consider leasing the rights for instream use during this period.

Links and Resources
Program Overview Brochure
Instream Leasing Program, Program Overview in Question and Answer Format (PDF 157 KB) 

Application Forms
     Forms for Standard Leases
     ¤  Lease Form (DOC 159 KB)   (PDF 89 KB)
     ¤  Additional Water Rights Form (DOC 142 KB)   (PDF 54 KB)
     Forms for Pooled Leases
     ¤  Pooled Lease Form (DOC 132 KB)  (PDF 58 KB)
     ¤  Additional District Water Rights Form (DOC 92 KB)  (PDF 43 KB) 
     ¤  Landowner Information Form (DOC 132 KB)  (PDF 58 KB)
     ¤  Additional Landowner Water Rights Form (DOC 112 KB)  (PDF 30 KB)
     Lease Renewal Form (DOC 73 KB)  (PDF 467 KB).
     Split Season Lease Forms
     ¤  Split Season Lease Form (DOC 96 KB)  (PDF 32 KB) 
     ¤  Split Season Lease Measurement Form (DOC 85 KB)  (PDF 20 KB)
Click here to view the fee schedule for application forms. 
Important Note: You must have Microsoft Word on your computer to use the Word version of the application form. In the absence of Word, the document you download through the above link will be unreadable.

Other Organizations
Additional information about instream lease options is available through the Oregon Water Trust, the Deschutes Resources Conservancy, and the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust. These are non-profit organizations that lease water for instream purposes.
The Freshwater Trust 
65SW Yamhill Street, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204
Contact by e-mail         Phone: (503) 222-9091
Deschutes River Conservancy
P.O. Box 1560, Bend, OR 97709-1560
Contact by e-mail          Phone: (541) 382-4077 
Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust 
700 Main Street, Suite 201A, Klamath Falls, OR  97601
Contact by E-mail          Phone: (541) 273-2189

ORS 537.348 
OAR Chapter 690, Division 077