Navigating Oregon’s Irrigation Rights
In our previous articles, we explored the basics of water rights in Oregon and their importance to potential property buyers. We also highlighted the role of Irrigation Districts and well water rights, especially when a well serves multiple properties. Today, we delve deeper into the often complex but crucial subject of irrigation rights and what they mean for property buyers.
The Importance of Irrigation Rights
Irrigation is a vital aspect of land use in Oregon, particularly in areas devoted to agriculture, but also for maintaining lawns and gardens in residential properties. The ability to legally use water for irrigation purposes is subject to specific rights, known as irrigation rights. These rights form a critical component of the overall water rights associated with a property.
Understanding Irrigation Rights
An irrigation right is a legal permit to use a specific amount of water for irrigation from a specified source. It includes details like the point of diversion, the place of use, and the period of use. Irrigation rights, like other water rights in Oregon, adhere to the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation. Therefore, a property’s irrigation rights depend largely on when those rights were first established.
Irrigation Districts and Their Role
As mentioned in our previous article, Irrigation Districts play a significant role in managing and allocating irrigation water. If the property you’re considering falls within an Irrigation District, it’s important to understand the rules and charges associated with the district. Districts can impose specific requirements or restrictions on water use, and failure to comply with these can result in penalties.
Factors Affecting Irrigation Rights
Several factors can affect your irrigation rights and their utility:
- Change of Water Use: In Oregon, changing the use of water from what was initially decreed in the water right certificate (for instance, from irrigation to storage use) requires a formal change application with the OWRD.
- Non-use and Forfeiture: If the water right is not used beneficially for a consecutive five-year period, it can be subject to forfeiture. However, certain exceptions apply, such as during periods of conservation or land set-aside programs.
- Shared Rights: If irrigation rights are shared between multiple properties, the quantity of water you can use may be less than if you had exclusive rights.
- Drought and Seniority: In times of water shortage, senior rights (those established earlier) take precedence over junior rights.
Conducting Due Diligence
Before buying a property, it’s crucial to understand its irrigation rights. Review the water right certificate, consult with the Irrigation District (if applicable), and consider hiring a professional to assess the rights and any potential issues.
Irrigation rights are an integral component of property ownership in Oregon, particularly for those intending to carry out any form of agriculture, or simply wishing to maintain a lush, green landscape. Understanding these rights, the role of Irrigation Districts, and the implications of shared or changing water use is key to ensuring your property can meet your needs. In our final article in this series, we’ll share practical tips and real-life case studies to help you navigate the waters of property purchase in Oregon. Stay tuned!