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Idaho water law adapts to technology and shrinking supply

Law and gavelThe water law in Idaho and in the arid west is based on the principle called “first in time is first in right” means canal companies, miners and farmers have first right to use the water for industrial purpose. But the situation turns out to be deteriorating in summer. Actually, in summer, the flow of water is lessened down however new users are generally asked to turn off first.

But, in 1940s a new pumping technology and reasonable electric rates happened to make groundwater economical for irrigation. Though the ground water rules had been enacted in 1951 yet it was being administrated separately from surface water. Legally speaking, they were not connected with each other.

In 1960s engineers thought that there were clear connections among the river, the springs and aquifer. When the flow of water started dropping in the spring, scientists thought that the groundwater pumping was the reason of its drop out. To cope it up, state enacted a law called as conjunctive management. Actually, under this law, the senior water rights holders – those who have been enjoying rights since years – can make a telephone call asking Idaho Department of Water Resources director to temporarily stop the groundwater pumping so they can use the water.

According to this law, the seniors have the right to demand from pumpers to pay them money if their water has been lost. To claim this, they have to prove that they have been affected from the pumping. Once their claim is proved, they will be paid money or granted water leasing for a certain period of time. No doubt, these issues take years to settle. However, negotiations are always preferred.

Use it or lose it is a concept developed for preventing users from water hoarding. According to Idaho water law if a user does not use water for 5 years, his water right would be fortified. But, this doctrine has also failed to some extent. In 1908 the Supreme Court of Idaho ruled out that “irrigation district or a canal company has no right to divert the water that is meant not put to use”.

On the other hand, another law was enacted in 2003 that allowed users to use larger water right. This is supposed to be the most complicated change in the history.

Historically speaking, water has been tied to irrigated lands only. The water right is transferred to other parties when the property is sold. Besides, irrigation districts, private users and canal companies- having storage space in reservoirs- have right to lease or sell their water.  Apart from this, it is the absolute discretion of the individual to sell or transfer his rights to anyone. Rights are working like shares in the canal companies.

Lastly, Idaho law does not grant permission to ranchers to boost up the steam flow. Hence, they cannot sell their water right to anyone under any condition.

Idaho Legal News

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