Appropriation Policy and Rules


The Division publishes policy and/or adopts formal rules related to water right appropriation. The documents below indicate how the Division will respond to particular issues related to water right appropriation. Select from the pulldown menu below to look a particular policy or rule.

Water Rights Administrative Rules:

PDF Documents:

Additional Information

Memorandum Of Water Appropriation Policy Colorado River Drainage



Date: MARCH 7, 1990
Revised: FEBRUARY 25, 2009

With continued emphasis on development of water within the Colorado River Basin and in an effort to better define and utilize Utah’s allocated portion of the river flow, as set forth in the Upper Colorado River Compact, the following policy is established for the Upper Colorado River Drainage:

 1) Applications to Appropriate water from either surface or underground will be limited to one family, up to one (1) acre of irrigation, and 10 equivalent livestock units or an appropriate acre-foot limitation based on these parameters and water availability.  Such applications for surface and underground water will be given five years from the approval date to place the water to beneficial use.  Unusual conditions must exist to grant an extension of time.  Applications for limited amounts of water in isolated headwater areas will be considered on their individual merits depending on the availability of water.

 2) Larger surface and underground applications may be considered for perpetual approval on a priority basis depending on the availability of water in the local area and within Utah’s apportionment under the Upper Colorado River Compact.  Such applications may also be considered on a non-priority order for fixed time or temporary approval, depending on the availability of water.  Fixed time approvals may be extended beyond the initial approval period as provided by statute.  For those applications granted in perpetuity, the potential depletion of each application must be defined.

 3) Change Applications will be considered on their individual merits.  Changes involving amounts greater than 0.25 cfs flow will require that the depletion be defined.

 4) Change/Exchange Applications will be required for water development in the fully appropriated drainages.

 5) Non-consumptive applications may be considered in a non-priority order based on their individual merits and water availability.  This pertains to all areas of the Upper Colorado River Drainage Area in Utah.

Water Use Information for Water Right Applications

The diversion figure in water right applications is the quantity of water expressed as a flow rate in cfs (cubic feet per second) and/or as a volume in acre-feet to be taken from a well, river, spring, etc. for the required purpose. The depletion figure is the quantity of water consumed which will be lost to the hydrologic system through said use. Depleted water does not return to the surface water sources or underground aquifers via seepage, drainage, etc. but is consumed in the growth of plans and animals, evaporation, and transmission away from the area. The following figures are used for general quantification. As new data is available, these figures may change. If applicants provide specific figures based on design criteria, testing data, monitored measurements, etc. which differ from these amounts, such information will be reviewed and considered. One cubic-foot per second equals about 450 gallons per minute. One acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons.

DOMESTIC (inside use only): Water diversion for a fulltime (permanent residence) use is evaluated at 0.45 acre-foot per family. Parttime (seasonal or recreational) use is equated at 0.25 acre-foot per family. Depletion is generally 20% if using a septic tank or drain field system. It varies if the residence is connected to a community sewage system depending on the treatment method used and its distance away from the diverted source.

IRRIGATION (any outside watering): This purpose includes watering of crops, lawns, gardens, orchards, and landscaping. The diversion amount (irrigation duty) ranges from 2 acre-feet per acre in cool, mountain meadow areas to 6 acre-feet per acre in low, hot southern areas of the state. Higher, cooler valleys are generally 3 acre-feet per acre, and lower moderate areas 4 or 5 acre-feet per acre. If land is subirrigated or supplemented by other rights or supplies, the diversion rate may be less than average for the area. Generally the irrigation season is described as April 1 to October 31 and/or the general frostfree period in the area. Some court decrees and early rights authorize differing periods. Depletion varies considerably due to differing soils, temperatures, wind factors, etc. and can range from about 40% to about 70%. Figures are taken from available studies (particularly "Consumptive Use of Irrigated Crops in Utah", Research Report 145, Consumptive Use Information Tables).

STOCKWATERING: The diversion figures for this purpose are based on year-round watering. Stock operations for lesser or intermittent periods would need adjustment accordingly. Water diverted for this use is generally considered to be 100% depleted by the animal, evaporation, phreatophytes, and/or waste water collection.

cow or horse                                          0.028     acre-foot
sheep, goat, swine, moose, or elk                     0.0056    acre-foot
ostrich or emu                                        0.0036    acre-foot
llama                                                 0.0022    acre-foot
deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, or mt. goat            0.0014    acre-foot
chicken, turkey, chukar, sagehen, or pheasant         0.00084   acre-foot
mink or fox (caged)                                   0.00005   acre-foot
INDUSTRIAL, COMMERCIAL, RECREATIONAL, COMMUNITY AND MINING: Projects are evaluated on an individual basis. Parameters include method of processing or manufacturing, number of employees, length of workshift and period of operation, type of waste processing and/or discharge, and types of employee and/or public facilities (showers, food preparation, etc.). The Utah State Administrative Rules for Public Drinking Water Systems are guidelines for such estimates.

Tool for estimating diversion and depletion

Water Right Title Information

Please Note: Beginning July 1, 2007, the Division of Water Rights will no longer accept any Report of Water Right Conveyance that proposes title update on more than one water right number. A complete Report of Water Right Conveyance, including all supporting documentation, must be submitted for EVERY water right number requiring title update.

Note: The training manual for preparing a "Report of Water Right Conveyance" may be purchased for $5.00 from the Division of Water Rights. Click here for the Adobe Acrobat version of the training manual.

State statutes provide that all water is the property of the public. Rights to use water are administered through the Division of Water Rights. Much of the State of Utah is closed to new appropriations of water, so people proposing new projects may have to obtain existing rights and amend them for new developments. The following material highlights a few general considerations and is provided for information purposes only. As in all legal and financial transactions, expert professional counsel is advisable.

Water rights may have many types of owners including individuals, partnerships, trusts, companies, financial institutions, and political entities. Title to a water right may be in a different name than is the land upon which it is used. A water right may be conveyed silently as an appurtenance to the land upon which it is used (if title to both the land and the water right are in the same entity). Or, a right may be conveyed with land in a specifically described amount, or it may be conveyed separately without any land involved. Also, land can be sold without its appurtenant water rights if the rights are expressly reserved or have been conveyed or changed away prior to the conveyance of the land.

Appurtenance must be established if any of the deed(s) fail to mention the water rights by number. An appurtenance map(s) will need to be submitted showing the property as described on the deed. Each map will need to have the property description for the parcel (often the parcel will already be detailed on a county recorder's ownership plat) outlined or highlighted exactly the way the deeds describe, and a Section, Section Corner, Township and Range indicated. The maps submitted show how the above-mentioned water right(s) were conveyed by appurtenance with the land. A professional who is licensed in Utah as an attorney, a professional engineer, a title insurance agent, or a professional land surveyor are the only professionals authorized to submit maps establishing appurtenance (R655-5-5).

Statutorily, the appropriate county recorder's office is the location of title record for perfected water rights. All deeds should be filed with the appropriate county recorder. The records of the Division of Water Rights may or may not accurately reflect ownership. The procedure for updating ownership in records of the Utah Division of Water Rights is described in Utah Code Section 73-1-10 and Administrative Rule R655-3.

All water rights include specific restrictions. There is a limited amount of water that may be diverted from a defined source for certain uses during a defined period of time each year. Each right also has a priority date in relationship to other rights in the area and/or from the source. Should a scarcity of water occur, rights could be cut off or reduced for a period of time based on seniority alone, regardless of the type of use. Also, perfected rights must be consistently placed to beneficial use by the owner or an authorized party, or otherwise protected during an idle period of seven years or more by filing of a nonuse application with the State Engineer. Otherwise, unused rights may be challenged as having ceased for nonuse.

Since all rights have specific attributes, it is recommended that any conveyance document carefully define what is being conveyed. Documents should recite the water right number(s), any pending change applications being conveyed, the amount(s) of water, and the beneficial use(s) being transferred. Then the buyer (grantee) is aware of exactly what has been obtained, and the seller (grantor) is aware of what use(s) must be retired to accommodate the new owner.

Each type of beneficial use has an associated maximum amount of water ("duty") which may be diverted to meet those purposes. Each use will also have an associated percentage or rate at which water is depleted from the hydrologic system under such use. Buyers should evaluate water rights in terms of these defined amounts to be sure that enough right is obtained for their proposed projects. If the new party plans to utilize the same source and nature of use and place of use, more paperwork may not be needed. If a buyer plans to amend the right or a portion of the right to include a new source and/or nature of use and/or place of use, a change application will need to be filed with and approved by the State Engineer to authorize such alterations. Change applications will be advertised in a local newspaper so that other water users in the area can be notified of the proposed amendments and express any concerns about the effects of changes upon their existing rights. Generally, obtaining a water right as close and as similar as possible to the proposed project lessens concerns about a change application being approved..

Area of Concern Program

The Utah Division of Water Rights administers Utah's Water Right laws (Title 73 of the Utah Code). The director of the Division, the State Engineer, is responsible for the general administrative supervision of the waters of the state and the measurement, appropriation, apportionment and distribution of those waters.

The State Engineer acts on all applications to use water in the State and maintains a comprehensive set of Water Right records, assembled from his application approval responsibility. The processing of applications follows statutory requirements of due process. Applications are analyzed against statutory criteria to determine whether they are approved or rejected (Application Processing flowchart).

Locations in the State where areas of concern exist can be requested to be added to the Area of Concern layer. If it is determined to be warranted by the State Engineer the identified areas will be added to the State Engineer's policies, and the areas will be added to the mapping tools utilized by the Division.

Applications that are filed which propose to utilize water from known areas of concern are flagged by the automated application system and notification is sent to the entities associated with the Area of Concern. For Example, if an application is proposing to move into an area of identified ground water contamination a notice is sent to Utah Division of Water Quality and to the entities responsible for the cleanup of the contamination. These entities are encouraged to participate in the application process to educate the applicant of the concern and to provide evidence to the State Engineer to support either the rejection or approval of the application.

Applications that are proposed which would prove detrimental to the public welfare will be rejected by the State Engineer - 73-3-8(1)(a)(iii)(B).

Map of Areas of Concern

Flaming Gorge Bureau of Reclamation Water Exchange Contract

This is a policy on applications on water rights derived from application number 41-3479 (A30414d). This water right was filed by the USA Bureau of Reclamation in 1958 for the purpose of the ultimate phase of the Central Utah Water Project. In 1996 the water right was assigned to the Utah Board of Water Resources. A condition of the assignment is that "The State of Utah agrees that if it stores water in or benefits directly from Colorado River storage Project Facilities, the State of Utah will enter into a water service contract with the United Sates."" To comply with the assignment provision the Utah Board of Water Resources has signed a water exchange contract with the Bureau of Reclamation. All future applications filed on water rights derived from application A30414d will require as a condition of approval a third party contract between the applicant and the Utah Board of Water Resources.

Relevant Links:
Assignment of Water Right 41-3479 (A30414d)
2006 Record of Decision
Bureau of Reclamation Green River Water Rights Exchange with the State of Utah
Green River Block Water Exchange Contract Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact

List of water rights derived from Application A30414d: