Explore Water

Water Rights

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park (NPS Photo)
Throughout the United States, the quantity of water available for competing uses is often limited. In response, federal and state lawmakers, established a body of water law to bring order to the distribution and use of water. The foundational right acknowledged and protected in water law is the right to use public waters, commonly referred to as a water right. A water right is one of the many tools a National Park Service (NPS) manager can use to ensure that park resources are conserved for present and future generations.
Water rights are created by Congressional action or through compliance with state law. They become fully established when their characteristics are determined and affirmed either by a court or state administrative official, such as a state engineer. Characterization involves identifying the water-dependent purposes of a park unit, any other water uses necessary for park resources and visitors, and determining the quantity of water necessary to support those purposes and uses. Once established, the NPS must participate in administrative and legal processes to protect its water rights against injury by existing or proposed water uses.

Information about NPS activities to establish and protect NPS water rights through court and administrative proceedings can be found on this web site. Links are provided to agencies that administer state water law and the U.S. Geological Survey which collects stream flow and ground water data at some of the sites which are important to NPS water rights and resources.

General stream adjudications are court proceedings which produce decrees to affirm water rights.

Water rights protection activities are pursued to protect water rights through administrative proceedings.

The NPS enters into settlement agreements to resolve issues while avoiding often contentious court or administrative proceedings.

State rulings and court decrees are final decisions by administrative agencies and courts.

Reports and presentations are produced to support establishment and protection of NPS water rights.

On behalf of many park units, the NPS works cooperatively with agencies that administer state water laws to resolve issues.

When the well is dry, we know the worth of water"

- Benjamin Franklin

update on 08/12/2005  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/flow.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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