Who owns the water in Oregon?
Under Oregon law, all water is publicly owned. With some exceptions, cities, farmers, factory owners, and other water users must obtain a permit or water right from the Oregon Water Resources Department to use water from any source— whether it is underground, or from lakes or streams. Generally speaking, landowners with water flowing past, through, or under their property do not automatically have the right to use that water without a permit from the Oregon Water Resources Department.
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What is a beneficial use of water?
It depends on what your water right is. Some examples are agriculture, stock water, industrial, commercial, aquatic life, and nursery operations.
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Who do I contact to learn more about my water rights?
The Oregon Water Resources Department. Deschutes Basin Watermaster (541) 388-6669. OWRD in Salem (503) 986-4700.
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How do I know how much water I am entitled to and when I am allowed to use it?
Your water right certificate will often give you the information you need to know. Contact the Oregon Water Resources Dept. if you do not know if you have a certificate.
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Do I need a water right for my livestock?
Stock watering is an exempt use from groundwater. If stock drinks directly from a surface water source, then the user is also exempt.
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Do I need a water right for my pond?
Most often yes, unless you use the pond for irrigation and you already have an irrigation water right. If the pond is not used for irrigation, you may need a water right for storage or a multipurpose right.
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Can I divert water from the stream/ditch/canal that runs behind my house?
Not without a water right.
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Who enforces Oregon’s water laws?
The primary enforcers are state watermasters from the Oregon Water Resources Department.
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What if I have a water right and I use only part of it or none of it?
You can lease all or part of your water right instream either temporarily or permanently to avoid forfeiture. Each year of leasing instream counts as a year of beneficial use. This allows you to protect your water rights that are not being used while providing instream benefits. Contact the Deschutes River Conservancy for more information (541) 382-4077 ext.16.
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Do I need a water right to pump groundwater out of the well on my property?
Yes, unless it falls under exempt uses such as domestic, stock watering, lawn or a noncommercial garden less than .5 acre in area.
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