Friday, June 26, 2009

What is a Nonuse Application?

A nonuse application is an application made to the Utah State Engineer under which a water right owner may cease using the water right for up to seven years without the water right becoming subject to forfeiture.

Under the Utah Code, the State Engineer should not approve a nonuse application unless the applicant shows “reasonable cause” for the nonuse. Reasonable cause includes:

(i) a demonstrable financial hardship or economic depression;
(ii) the initiation of water conservation or efficiency practices, or the operation of a groundwater recharge recovery program approved by the state engineer;
(iii) operation of legal proceedings;
(iv) the holding of a water right or stock in a mutual water company without use by any water supply entity to meet the reasonable future requirements of the public;
(v) situations where, in the opinion of the state engineer, the nonuse would assist in implementing an existing, approved water management plan; or
(vi) the loss of capacity caused by deterioration of the water supply or delivery equipment if the applicant submits, with the application, a specific plan to resume full use of the water right by replacing, restoring, or improving the equipment.

Nonuse applications are advertised, and any interested person can file a protest to the application with the State Engineer. Following a review of the application and any protest (and perhaps an administrative hearing), the State Engineer will either approve or reject the application.

To read the Utah statute regarding nonuse applications, click here.

To access the Utah Division of Water Rights' nonuse application form, click here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What is a Change Application?

In Utah, water rights have certain components or elements. These components include:

(1) Point of diversion: This is the exact location where the water is diverted. For example, it may be a point on a river or stream where the water is diverted into a ditch, or it may be the location of a well where water is diverted from the underground aquifer.

(2) Place of use: This is the location where the water is used. The location is usually given in terms of quarter-quarter sections (40 acres).

(3) Type of use: This is what the water is used for. The most common uses are irrigation, domestic, stockwatering, industrial, and municipal.

(4) Period of use: This is the period during the year during which the water may be used. For example, an irrigation right may have a period of use from April 1st to October 31st. Other types of rights, such as stockwatering or domestic, may have a period of use for the entire year.

If the owner of a water right wishes to change any of these water rights components, he or she must file a Change Application (the official title is “Application for Permanent Change of Water”) with the Utah Division of Water Rights. For example, if a water right currently permits an individual to divert water from a stream, and the individual wants to get the water from a well instead of the stream, the individual would be required to file a Change Application to change the point of diversion from the stream to the well.

To read the Utah statute regarding Change Applications, click here.

To access the Utah Division of Water Rights' Change Application form, click here.

To learn more about the process that the State Engineer goes through in approving or denying a Change Application, click here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

How to Search for Utah Water Rights

The Utah Division of Water Rights maintains a very useful website that contains information about every water right in Utah. There are several different ways to search for information on a water right on the website.

The easiest way to search is by water right number. If you know the water right number, simply click here, enter the water right number, and hit “Submit Query.” This will bring up the database summary for the water right.

If you don’t know the water right number, but you do know the name of the water right owner, click here, enter the owner name, and click “Display Results.” If the owner is an individual, enter the last name first, then the first name (separate the last name and the first name with a comma). If the owner is a business entity, enter the entity’s name.

If you don’t know the water right number or the owner name, but you know the name of the river, stream, spring, or other source, you can search by the source name. Click here, select “Text Search on Source of Supply,” enter the source name, then click “Display Results.”