Monday, January 4, 2010

How Are Utah Water Rights Transferred?

Under Utah law, water rights can be transferred in two ways.

First, water rights can be transferred by deeding the water right and recording the deed in the county (or counties) where the water is diverted and used. Utah Code section 73-1-10.

Second, water rights can pass by appurtenance, which occurs when land is conveyed and an appurtenant (i.e., “attached”) water right automatically passes with the land. Utah Code section 73-1-11.

Thus, true ownership of a water right can be determined only by researching the deeds at the county recorder’s office.

The Utah Division of Water Rights maintains a database of all water rights and associated information, which includes the name(s) of the owner(s) of each water right. The Division does not, however, actively monitor any transfers of water rights; rather, the Division relies on each water right owner to file a Report of Conveyance to notify the Division when ownership transfers.

Sometimes, individuals are conveyed a water right through a properly recorded deed or through appurtenance, but do not notify the Division of the conveyance. Thus, there can be a discrepancy between the true ownership (based on recorded deeds) and the Division’s database of ownership.

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