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Water Rights

  • Get copies of the claim abstract for water rights on land of interest
    • Check for Issue Remarks
    • If Issue Remarks, check at regional office for any claim review notes
  • Review the original 1982 water right claim file and the material submitted in support of it
    • Check for maps, aerial photos, etc. used to support claim
    • Check for any claims examination materials
    • Ask office personnel for assistance in interpreting files
    • Look for evidence of a district court decree
  • Review deeds of property to current owner to make sure that no water rights have been reserved (severed) from the land
  • If the water rights are represented by shares in a ditch company or irrigation district, check with the ditch company or irrigation district to confirm status of the shares
  • Review the Montana Water resources Survey Maps for the township and range in which the water right claims a place of use
    • See if land claimed to be irrigated in the Statement of Claim is shown on the Survey Map as irrigated
  • Look at aerial photos for evidence of historic use
    • Look for evidence of irrigation (different shading)
  • Look at topographical maps
    • Compare elevations between the point of diversion and the claimed places of use
    • Look for evidence of irrigation ditches
  • Compare the legal description of the land offered for sale to the irrigated acres described in the Statement of Claim – do they fully overlap?
  • Check the legal descriptions of the points of diversion against the legal description on the land that you are considering selling/buying
  • Do a site visit
    • Bring a camera, a topographical map, Water Resources Survey map
    • Bring notepad
    • Check current irrigation operations, compare to claims abstract
    • Look for signs of historic irrigation – ditches, headgates, etc.
    • Ask what was and is irrigated
    • Ask about people in area acquainted with irrigation practices on land
    • Ask about any irrigation records
  • Inquire into reliability of the right and how often it is satisfied
    • Ask current owner
    • Ask others on the stream
    • If there has been a water commissioner, find out who it is and ask the water commissioner
  • Check the seniority of the right
    • Go to DNRC online website and look at priorities on your water source
    • Ask the current owner how often the water right gets satisfied – all of every year? Part of every year? Only occasionally?
    • If there is a water commissioner for the source, talk to the water commissioner about how reliable the water right is
  • Check the reliability of the water source
    • Ask whether the stream runs throughout the season or even throughout the year
    • Schedule a late-summer visit to see first-hand
  • For any water use permits (post-June 30, 1973 water rights) make sure the permit has been perfected.


©2013 Northwest Montana Association of Realtors®. The property data on this web site comes in part from the Internet Data Exchange (IDX) program of the Northwest Montana Association of REALTORS® Multiple Listing Service, Inc. IDX information is provided exclusively for consumers’ personal, non-commercial use, that it may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing, and that the data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by the MLS. All properties are subject to prior sale, change, or withdrawal. Neither listing broker(s) nor shall be responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, or misprints, and shall be held totally harmless from any damages arising from reliance upon these data.
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