Updated: April 17, 2011


Five Proposed Determination of Water Rights books were compiled and published between 1982 and 1985 (Area Number-Book Number-Division: 93-01-Huntington Creek, 93-02-San Rafael River, 93-03-Cottonwood Creek, 93-04-Ferron Creek, 93-05-Supplement/Index).  No pre-trial or final decree has been issued.  There are seven court decrees in this area covering Huntington Creek, Cottonwood Creek, and Swasy Creek. There are two state-administered distribution systems in this area.  The Cottonwood Creek Distribution System and the Huntington Creek Distribution System, administered by the Cottonwood Creek Commissioner and the Huntington Creek Commissioner, respectively.  Because this area is part of the Colorado River basin, the conditions of the 1922 Colorado River Compact, the 1944 Mexican Treaty and the 1948 Upper Colorado River Compact and the State Engineer's Colorado River Policy apply.  Applications to appropriate or change water are subject to conditions dealing with Green River Endangered Species Protection. Click here to see statistics for this area.


Surface Water - Surface waters of the area are considered to be fully appropriated. New diversions and consumptive uses on surface sources must be accomplished by change applications filed on valid existing water rights owned or acquired by the applicant. However, some water is available for larger appropriations on a Temporary (one-year) or Fixed Time period basis. Non-consumptive, uses such as hydroelectric power generation, would be considered on the merits of each application.

Ground Water - There are some limited ground-water resources available. Permanent applications in valley locations are generally limited to sufficient acre-foot amounts to serve the domestic purposes of one family, the irrigation of one acre, and ten head of livestock (or equivalent livestock units).

All applications involving surface and ground waters, including changes on existing water rights, are considered on their individual merits with emphasis on their potential to interfere with existing rights and to ensure that there is no enlargement of the underlying rights.

Applications are generally approved upon showing of an immediate need for water and with the presumptions that the applicant has all necessary resources and authorities to diligently develop the proposed beneficial uses of water and to file proof. Proof must be submitted by a registered land surveyor or engineer licensed in the State of Utah or a water user may file an election for proof to be completed by the State Engineer’s office. Requests for extensions of time in which to submit proof will be critically reviewed after the initial five-year period.

Huntington Creek, Cottonwood Creek and Ferron Creek Upper Watershed Drainages - The upper reaches of these drainages, above the major irrigation diversions, are closed to new appropriations. Change applications can be filed on water rights based on shares from one of the irrigation companies on Cottonwood Creek, Huntington Creek or Ferron Creek or on other first priority water rights. Click here for a map of these drainages.


Applications are advertised in the Emery County Progress, Mount Pleasant Pyramid, Ephraim Enterprise, or the Manti Message depending on the county where the source is located. At the discretion of the Regional Engineer, an application may be advertised in more than one county, if he determines the application could affect the water rights located in bordering counties. The general irrigation diversion duty for this area, which the State Engineer uses for evaluation purposes, is 4.0 acre-feet per acre per year. Click here to see a duty map for this area. The consumptive use requirement is determined from the publication Consumptive Use of Irrigated Crops in Utah, Research Report 145, Utah State University, 1994, unless the applicant submits other data for consideration. This area is administered by the Southeastern Regional Office in Price.

Other Requirements

The Water Right applicant is strongly cautioned that other permits may be required before any physical development of a project can begin and it is the responsibility of the applicant to determine the applicability of and acquisition of such permits. In order to avoid delays and ensure that Water Right approvals conform to applicable local ordinances, applicants should contact local governmental entities in advance to determine what ordinances are in place that affect the proposed project and to make sure that Water Right filings conform to those ordinances. The approval of a Water Right application does not imply any approval of a project by any other governmental entity. Approval of the project proposed in the Water Right application should be obtained from local governmental entities as necessary to implement a project.


Technical Publication No. 15, Water from Bedrock in the Colorado Plateau of Utah; Utah State Engineer; 1966.

Technical Publication No. 72, Reconnaissance of the Quality of Surface Water in the San Rafael River Basin, Utah; Utah Department of Natural Resources; 1982.

Technical Publication No. 78, Bedrock Aquifers in the Northern San Rafael Swell Area, Utah, with special emphasis on the Navajo Sandstone; Utah Department of natural Resources; 1984.

Ground-Water Flow in the Navajo Sandstone in Parts of Emery, Grand, Carbon, Wayne, Garfield, and Kane Counties, Southeast Utah; Water-Resources Investigations Report 86-4012; U.S. Geological Survey (DjVu plugin required to view this document); 1986.


Navajo Sandstone Ground-water Flow Model, 1986.

Trail Mountain Ground-water Flow Model, 1991.


April 16, 2002

Policy area in green,
click on the map for more detail


Ranging from southeastern Carbon County (T13S), across Emery County and into northeast Wayne County (T31S), this area’s major stream is the San Rafael River and its major tributaries, Cottonwood, Ferron, and Huntington Creeks. This area is bordered on the north by the Price River drainage, on the east by the Green River, on the south by the Dirty Devil River drainage, and on the west by the Wasatch Plateau. The highest point in the area is 11,285 foot South Tent Mountain in the Wasatch Plateau, while the lowest is at the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers at about 3,780 feet, giving a total relief of about 7,500 feet.