PBJ How Oregon Works: 3 Questions to Ask About Water Rights as Oregon Experiences Continued Drought


For Portland Business Journal’s 2021 How Oregon Works series “Government & Regulations” installment, Stoel Rives’ natural resources and environmental law attorney Kirk Maag and corporate attorney Thomas Griffin contributed an article titled “3 questions to ask about water rights as Oregon experiences continued drought,” published July 1, 2021. The authors discuss information landowners, buyers, and lessees will need to help them understand the water rights associated with a particular property or operation.

The authors provide answers to the questions:

  • Do you have the right to use water? All water in Oregon — both surface water and groundwater — belongs to the public, meaning that, with a few exceptions, the use of the water will require state authorization.
  • Do you have access to the water source? A water right generally specifies a “point of diversion” — a surface water source from which water can be diverted or a groundwater source from which it can be pumped — that cannot be changed without state approval.
  • Is water actually available? Allocation of water among water right owners is based on a priority system where if demand exceeds supply owners of senior water rights can require junior water right owners to curtail their diversions.

Maag and Griffin note: “And priority is relative: a 1920s-era water right may be senior in one area but junior in another. Given this priority system, landowners, buyers, and lessees should understand the likelihood of future curtailment based on the relative priorities of the water rights at issue.”

Related Professionals

Media Contact

Jamie Moss (newsPRos)
Media Relations
w. 201.493.1027 c. 201.788.0142

Mac Borkgren
Senior Manager, Marketing Communications & Operations

Jump to Page
Stay Informed Arrow

Subscribe to Our Updates