House Bill 110 – Just Passed by Montana Legislature

Many of you have received a notice regarding the bill passed by the 2017 Montana legislature on filing for stock water rights. Here are the questions to ask yourself before deciding to file or not to file

  • 1. Can you prove domestic stock (cows, horses, pigs, goats, etc.) use of the surface water (creek, coulee, draw, river, etc but not a ditch, canal or reservoir) before July 1, 1973?
    • 2. Will it increase the value to your property?
      • 3. Do you have any disputes on use of the water for your stock?

If the answer of these questions is yes, then take the time to file. Several people have asked – I am in an “Homeowner’s Association” – should we file as a group or individually? The answer is the Association would be filing on the entire stretch but you could file on the stretch of surface water that is on your property. It would give you a priority date which could increase the value of your property.

How do I prove the use of the water was before July 1, 1973 if I didn’t own the property at the time? “An Affidavit” can be as simple as a notarized letter from someone that owned the property prior to you or from someone that has historical knowledge of the use of the water in that area.

What happens if I don’t file – will I lose my ability to water my stock from the stream? The short answer is “no” but the complicated answer is that you now would have a “junior right” to others that have filed which may limit your use of the water. To file you need to complete the form, include supporting documentation (maps, affidavits, etc.) and pay the cost for review of $130. You have until June 30, 2019 to file.

Water Rights are becoming more and more valuable in the State of Montana and are often complicated to understand. If you have more questions, specific to your property, please contact DNRC (Department of Natural Resources and Conservation) at 406-444-0560.