Back in December, I posted on the place of use for water rights defined in permits and licenses from the Water Board:
Permits and licenses have a place of use – sometimes it is easy to locate on the ground, and sometimes it is so-many-acres within a larger area. I have never found the maps with the online, downloadable documents available at eWRIMS. To get the maps, staff at the Water Board have to be contacted, and a copy of the map must be requested separately.
If you have, or some other diverter has a water right and the land has never subdivided since the time that the permit or license was issued, then a new owner will easily be able to see where the water right is diverted and applied. What if you own land subdivided from a larger farm or ranch with a permitted or licensed right? Do you have a water right at all? I asked Paul Wells at the Water Board, and he explained:
“When land with a water right is subdivided, the new owners are responsible for contacting the State Water Board to inform us of the ownership change. Additional information on filing a change of ownership may be found on the following webpage:
For administrative purposes, we have one primary contact for each water right. If the land is subdivided, the additional owners should contact our office to record that they are now co-owners under the right.
There is also the option of splitting the right into two or more rights. Each part would then be treated as an individual water right.”
That’s good news if you want to keep your part of the water right! This comes with a big caution – the Water Board will consider whether a permitted or licensed right has been used within the last 5 years. If not, it is possible the Board may consider the right to have expired…although it is not automatic. Also, if one person has been paying the costs associated with the water right, both physical maintenance and Board fees, as well as filing all the paperwork (now online forms), that person may contest a subdivision of the water right. The decision is in the hands of the Water Board.
This is much the same as a water right described in a Superior Court decree. If the right is areal and is a certain flow or volume on certain acreage, then it is usually proportioned by acreage for subdivided parcels. There are exceptions – if the rights are apportioned differently by written agreement, then this may be accepted by a judge later if a case comes before the court. If the resultant parcels are too small, then state watermaster areas will give the tiny rights to larger parcels. For example, at the Department of Water Resources, the minimum right is 0.005 cfs, unless a tiny piece added to one or more other pieces sums to 0.005 cfs.
As always, it pays to do your research before bringing this up with Water Board staff or your neighbor. On the one hand, you don’t want to waste your time and money only to find out your property was never part of the place of use described in a permit or license. On the other hand, if your property should have a right, you want to make your claim clear and then approach your neighbor(s) politely with plenty of evidence. Having a right doesn’t mean someone else won’t take action before the Water Board or in court, costing you time and money even if you are right. So, prepare your paperwork, maps, photos, and calculations ahead of time.
I hope you got some of the rain we have had at our place the last couple of days. That’s enough for now, have a good night everyone!