What Your Water Right Means
Where am I in line?
To answer this question, you must first identify the senior diversion rights in your river basin (using the water rights database). A senior diversion right has a priority date earlier than the priority date of your diversion right, and whoever holds that right is ahead of you in line.
To finish answering this question, identify all of the junior diversion rights in your river basin (those whose priority date is more recent than the priority date of your diversion right.) These water users are behind you in line. Any holders of limited-term rights in your basin are at the very end of the line, behind all of the exempt users and perpetual rights.
What does my priority date mean?
- Water rights are issued under the prior appropriation system, meaning first in time, first in right. Your priority date establishes your place in line during times of shortage. The priority date is the determining factor when water rights are cut back or curtailed in times of shortage, regardless of the type of use of your permitted right.
- Should curtailment of water rights become necessary, the water rights with the most recent priority date will be curtailed first. These are known as junior water rights.
- Multiple priority dates are generally the result of amendments to a permit or certificate of adjudication after the original authorization is issued. For example, your original water right has a priority date of September 1, 1900 to use 100 acre-feet of water. On August 5, 1985, you requested an additional 50 acre-feet of water to be added to your water use permit. In most cases, the priority date of your original water authorization would not change, but the additional 50 acre-feet of water would have a priority date of August 5, 1985. If a curtailment is issued for water rights with a priority date of 1980 and junior, the original 100 acre-feet would still be available for your diversion and use, but the 1985 water would not.
- For impounded water, if you amended your water right to add a reservoir that impounds state water in 1985, and there is a curtailment of all water rights with a date of 1980 and junior, you would not be required to release water you had previously stored in the reservoir, but you would be required to pass any water that was flowing into the reservoir at the time of curtailment to downstream senior water rights.