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Water Rights FAQs

General Information

Do I need a water right?

With some exceptions, a water right permit or license from the Oregon Water Resources Department (Department) is required to use water from any source in the State of Oregon—whether it is underground, from lakes or streams, or from a reservoir. A few examples of uses that are exempt from this requirement include emergency fire control, stock watering, and domestic water use from a well not exceeding 15,000 gallons per day. “Domestic water use” means the use of water for human consumption, household purposes, domestic animal consumption that is ancillary to residential use of the property or related accessory uses. A complete list of exempt uses can be found on pages 8-9 in the publication titled Water Rights in Oregon: An Introduction to Oregon's Water Laws (​).

How do I obtain a water right in the State of Oregon?

Most water rights are obtained in a three-step process.

  1. The applicant first applies to the Department for a permit to use water. Note that the application process can take a year or longer.
  2. If a permit is granted, the holder of the permit must construct a water system and begin using water beneficially, consistent with all permit conditions.
  3. After water is applied, the permit holder must hire a certified water right examiner (CWRE) to complete a survey detailing how and where water has been applied. If water has been used according to the provisions of the permit, the Department will issue a water right certificate. A list of CWREs can be found here:   ​

Do I have to pay to get a water right?

Yes, the Department charges fees depending on the type of water right or authorization requested ( These fees can change based on various factors such as the rate and volume of water requested. Exam fees are due at the time the application is submitted. There is also an additional $610 permit recording fee that is due before a water right permit is issued. Fee calculators can be found on our website here: ​​

Applying for a Water Right

Where do I find information on how to apply for a water right permit?

Water right application forms are available on the Department's website:​​

Does the Department have any resources to assist with map creation?

To properly examine all water right applications, the Department must have an accurate map showing the location of the proposed water source(s) and area(s) of use. Maps submitted to the Department must meet the requirements in Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 690-310-0050. A resource to assist applicants in map creation can be found here: ​​

I need help with the application process. Are there any professionals who can help?

A Certified Water Right Examiner (CWRE) can be a useful resource. A list of CWREs can be found here:

How do I find/contact my caseworker?

To locate and contact your caseworker, you'll need your application number or last name and/or business name that the application was filed under. You can search with that information here: Water Right​ Research Query ( Once you've located the correct entry, click “Select" to expand the information. If a staff person has been assigned to this application, it will be displayed under Processing History as a hyperlink. You can click the link to send a direct email to your assigned caseworker.​​

I received a Final Order on my application. What may I do if I disagree with the Final Order?

If you have concerns about the Final Order, carefully review the Notice of Right to Petition for Reconsideration or Judicial Review or Notice of Hearing Rights (if applicable) included on the first page of your Final Order. The Department is unable to provide legal advice.​

Existing Permit and Certificate Questions

I need a printout of my permit and/or certificate. Where do I find it?

You will need your application number, permit number, certificate number, or last name of the person associated with the water right. You can search with that information here: Water Right Research Query ( Once you have located the correct entry, click “Select" to expand the information. Additional information, such as the processing history and a map identifying the place of use, can be found by clicking “Scanned Documents".​​

I’ve purchased property that has a water right. How do I update this information with the Department?

For water rights that have a certificate issued, you may submit an Ownership Update Form (For Certificated Rights Only). Information on ownership updates can be found here:

For water rights that haven't had a certificate issued (i.e., non-certificated rights such as: application, permit, limited license, transfer, permit amendment or groundwater registration claim), you may submit a Request for Assignment Form. Information on assignments can be found here:

My water is contaminated. Who do I talk to?

The Water Resources Department is responsible for monitoring the amount of water being used. For water quality issues, please contact the Department of Environmental Quality or the Oregon Health Authority​​​​.​

Do I need to report my water use or static water levels to OWRD?

To determine if there are reporting conditions, you'll need to read the permit fully and carefully.  Most often this information can be found on the last few pages of your permit. Reporting forms are available on the Department's website: ​​

I plan on selling my property and currently have a water right permit. Will that permit be conveyed automatically to the new property owner?

No, water rights are not automatically conveyed to new owners when property ownership changes. Depending on the type and the stage of the water right, an Ownership Update or Request For Assignment should be submitted.

Information on water rights can be found here:

Information on ownership updates can be found here:

Information on assignments can be found here:

I am selling real estate that includes a water right. What are my obligations to the buyer?

By law (ORS 537.330), if you are selling real estate that includes any portion of lands described in a water right, then upon accepting an offer you are required to inform the purchaser in writing whether any permit, transfer approval order, or certificate evidencing the water right is available. In addition, as the seller you must deliver any permit, transfer approval order, or certificate to the purchaser at closing, if the permit, transfer approval order or certificate is available. ​

I wish to modify my permit. What do I need to do?

A water use permit holder with a non-expired permit completion date may apply to amend a permit by changing the place of use, changing the location of an authorized point of diversion or appropriation (well), or by adding a point of diversion or appropriation. Under certain limited circumstances, permit holders may also change a surface water point of diversion to a nearby groundwater source.  The other terms and conditions in the permit cannot be changed. More information can be found on the Department's website:​​

How can I change my certificated water right?

The use of water under a water right is restricted to the terms and conditions described in the water right certificate: place of use, point of diversion, and type of use. For example, if a water right holder establishes the right to irrigate a particular 20-acre tract of land, the water cannot be diverted from a different point or source, nor can it be used to irrigate other land. It cannot be used for any other purpose than the type of use indicated in the water right.

The water right holder must file a transfer application with the Department to change a point of diversion, point of appropriation, type of use, place of use, or any combination of these. More information can be found on the Department's website: