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. 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.
Water rights may be leased instream for an initial period of up to five years, and may be renewed at the water right holder’s discretion. During the term of the lease, a water right holder forgoes the consumptive use of his or her water right. Leased water is protected instream by the Water Resources Department for the benefit of fish and other instream uses. This arrangement benefits the water right holder by putting the right to beneficial use, which is required to be exercised every five years. At the end of the lease term, the water right reverts back to its original place of use, as shown below.
Leases go through an expedited review process, and are usually signed in 30 to 45 days after the application is received. Because of the expedited review of leases, if injury to another water right is found, the lease can be modified or terminated to prevent the injury.