Water Law

Water rights and ditch easements have long been important issues in Montana.  Worden Thane has represented Montana farmers, ranchers and landowners regarding their water rights and ditch easements since the firm's early years. This tradition continueswith our representing clients in the current ongoing statewide adjudication of "historic" or pre-1973 water rights. The adjudication is a massive project intended to determine the validity and scope of all historic water rights (pre July 1, 1973 priority dates). Starting in the 1980s, the adjudication process continues with basin-by-basin resolution of issues and disputes over historic water rights through the hard work of the Montana Water Court, water right owners and their attorneys and consultants, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). Once the adjudication process is completed, all of Montana will be in a better position to defend the State's increasingly important water resources.

To obtain a new water right after July 1, 1973, a person must submit an application to and obtain the approval of the Montana DNRC (including groundwater wells if the capacity is greater than 35 gallons per minute). Making a change to an existing water right likewise requires an application to and prior approval of the DNRC.

Our attorneys have experience representing a wide variety of clients before the Montana Water Court (adjudication of historic water rights with priority dates before July 1, 1973), before the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (for new water rights after July 1, 1973 and changes to existing water rights, i.e., points of diversion, place of use, etc.), and in state district court (regarding the enforcement of all water rights and for ditch easement disputes).

If you need assistance with a Water Law matter, please contact any of these attorneys: