What does it mean to "prove up" your water rights?
Are your water rights secure?
It seems like it should be simple. Right? You need the water, and you have a profitable and beneficial use for the water. You have taken the time to fill out the paperwork and have received a water use permit from your water agency. You have built your system over years of hard work. You may even have been in operation for several years. It probably feels like you have done everything to meet the criteria in your water right permit. So are you finished? Is our water right secure and in good standing with the state? Can you be certain that creditors will confirm the value of your business and irrigated land in the case of a re-finance or property sale?
In the scenario above the answer is: NO.
You have not finished the water right process and your water rights are not secure. In fact your business is at risk. You have not yet "proved up" on your water use and have not obtained a Certificate of Beneficial Use (Certificate). You may even be out of compliance with your permit due to permit condition criteria and time limits that have been forgotten or that seemed insignificant compared to getting the water system built and operational. If you are out of compliance with any permit condition or time limit, you are at risk of losing some or all of your water rights. Holding a permit to use water is NOT the last step in securing your water rights. The permit is only a time limited approval for the development of your project and for the initial beneficial use of water requested in the permit.
In Oregon and Washington you must still complete your claim of beneficial use in the form of a verification report completed by a Certified Water Rights Examiner (CWRE). A CWRE is a licensed professional third party that completes the "proof" of your water. The proof is completed via a review of compliance with each permit condition, the inspection and mapping of your water system, and measurement of water put to beneficial use on site. The CWRE compiles this technical information in the form of a Claim of Beneficial Use Report to your water agency, be it Ecology in Washington or the Water Resources Department in Oregon. This final proof of beneficial use is the "proving up" of your water right permit. Submittal of the CBU Report is the last step that the state needs to issue a Certificate. And it is the issuing of the Certificate that provides you the security in your water right claim.
In our busy lives it is easy to forget or overlook the permitting details necessary to complete the water right certification process, be it for irrigation, nursery, industrial or municipal use. Please take a moment to check your water right records. Confirm that you have completed your claim of beneficial use and received your Certificate.
If you find that after reviewing your files you remain uncertain of your water right status, a CWRE can help confirm your findings, or quickly assess the status of your water rights for you. A CWRE has the specific training and experience needed to review any permit conditions and can assist you to complete the permitting process. If there are legal questions or legal interpretations necessary, a CWRE also can provide recommendations for legal counsel that specialize in water law.
If you have any questions about water rights or water use, give us a call or drop us an email for a free initial consultation on your permit status. Don't risk your business due to incomplete water rights.