Buying Idaho Land with Water Rights

Are you looking for farmland or acreage in Idaho? One of the most important factors to consider when buying a farm or ranch is the water rights situation.  This blog offers a comprehensive look into the ins and outs of buying land with water rights in Idaho. Discover what you need to know before taking the plunge and find out what how water rights in Idaho work.

Buying Land in Idaho with Water Rights

What is a Water Right?

In the State of Idaho, the state's constitution declares all natural channels of water including rivers, natural springs, and lakes are public waters. A water right is essentially the permission to divert these public waters and put them to beneficial use. Some water rights are given directly to a landowner from the state while others are supplied through an irrigation district and each user pays a fee for their individual allowances.

Are Water Rights Included?

How the water rights are acquired varies depending on the state or region you live in. Also depending on the property, the water situation could be complex. I highly recommend contacting an expert to help you navigate through the nuances. I would start with the Idaho Department of Water Resources to find out how many acres of water rights are included with the property. To dive deeper you can hire a water rights engineer or specialist.

How Can I Use the Water?

Once you find out what water rights you have, it is important to understand how you are allowed to use them. Some rights are strictly for irrigation while others may be used for stock water or domestic use. You will want to understand this in detail because if you plan to plant crops but the rights are only allowed for stock water this could present an issue.

Another important step is to identify the point of diversion (POD) from the natural water source, such as a pump or headgate. Confirm you have direct access or an easement to the POD. Also, be sure to view a map of the place of use (POU) to verify the POU outlined is where you intend to use it.

How Much Do Water Rights Cost?

As previously mentioned some rights are supplied through an irrigation district. These districts have annual assessments and account fees the landowner must pay. There are typically no administrative costs if you own the rights directly through the state, however, there may a cost through the power company to run the pump that is diverting the water to your land.

What do Priority Dates Mean?

Water rights will have priority dates attached to them indicating when the right was established. In case of a water shortage, Idaho law uses this priority date to determine how they appropriate the water. Basically, it is a "first in time is first in right". Therefore, the older the priority date the better!

Final Note: If you don't use them you could lose them! Rights could be lost if not used for a continuous 5-year period.

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