Surface Water Rights in Idaho
While looking at that stream running across the back of your property, or that big open space in your pasture that seems to be wet all year round, there are a few things all landowners should know about water rights in Idaho before building a pond, diverting a stream or drilling a well.
The surface water permitting process in Idaho (for ponds and streams), is based on the Prior Appropriations Doctrine. In short this doctrine means the first person to construct a diversion and put water to a beneficial use is entitled to the amount of water they can show is needed for that use. Permits are granted by the Idaho Department of Water Resources and include three main parts; Physical availability, Legal availability, and Beneficial use. The success of your permit will depend on all of these parts and some background knowledge of your water source.
Physical availability means the source of water, wet spot or creek, needs to have enough water to allow you to complete the project; for example, enough water to water the land or fill a horse trough or a pond.
Legal availability means even after all other water rights on your proposed source are fulfilled there will still be sufficient water for your project. For example, if a stream has 12 inches of water in it and someone downstream is already using 6 inches, there is 12 inches physically available but only 6 inches are legally available.
Beneficial use means the proposed water use is recognized as a beneficial use of water by the State. Many of these beneficial uses have been established by the historic development of water in the arid West and legal disputes. Some of the most recognized beneficial uses are; crop irrigation, stock water, domestic consumption and municipal water.
Water Wells: Currently in Idaho surface water permits are not needed for drilling a well…if you desire a well on your property there is a $75 well drilling permit and you can hire a certified well driller to complete the project, commonly they will complete the drilling application for you.
Northwest Management, Inc. has extensive experience with water measurement, availability and Idaho surface water permitting. Give us a call and we will be happy to assist with the details of statues, rules and the process for application of a new water right.
Mark Corrao has a graduate degree from Colorado State University in Hydrology with experience in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming water rights and water resources.