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Things to know on water adjudication

by MICHELLE RICHMAN / Contributing Writer
| January 30, 2024 1:00 AM

The Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) appreciates the Bonner County Daily Bee’s publication of the Jan. 14, 2024, article “Water adjudication proceeding on schedule.”

The Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Adjudication is an issue of importance to landowners, water users and citizens in the basin. 

IDWR would like to clarify two key points made in that article: 

First, the article stated, “In Idaho, citizens have natural water rights for domestic and stockwater use — also known as de minimis water rights — meaning that they are allowed to use the water in Idaho without first getting permission.”

This statement needs clarification and a distinction between surface water and groundwater uses.  
For surface water (spring, creek, lake, etc.), uses that started prior to May 20, 1971, and instream stockwater uses (regardless of the date), do not require the water user to file for a water right permit with IDWR. Any use of surface water that started after May 20, 1971, requires a water right permit with IDWR, except allowing livestock animals to drink from a stream.

For groundwater (water from a well), a water right is required for all uses developed after March 25, 1963, except for de minimis domestic purposes.  In other words, only groundwater uses for domestic purposes, meeting the definition of Idaho Code § 42-111, are exempt from the requirement to file for a water right permit with IDWR. 
Secondly, the article stated, “While water right claims can be filed after the deadlines, individuals will be assessed a late fee of $50 or 15% of the original filing fee — whichever is greater.”
To clarify, late fees may be assessed in some cases; however, late fees are not applicable to deferrable adjudication claims. Water users of a small domestic and/or stockwater right, as defined by Idaho Code §42-111 (most commonly these are single family domestic and stockwater uses) may defer filing their adjudication claims and are not subject to a late fee.  Adjudication claims are different from – and are in addition to – the permits required for surface water uses established after May 20, 1971, and groundwater uses that do not meet the Idaho Code § 42-111 exemption criteria.   

Thank you for this opportunity to clarify those two points in the article. 


Michelle Richman is the IDWR Northern Regional manager, based in Coeur d’Alene.

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