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Groundwater Districts

The Idaho Legislature adopted the Groundwater District Act in 1995 which enables land owners holding groundwater irrigation rights to organize their own groundwater district pursuant to a local election authorized by a county commission.

The creation and organization of a groundwater district is similar to that of an irrigation organization, and it has broader authorities than a water measurement district. The groundwater district can perform the measurement and reporting functions required by law and levy assessments. Additionally, the groundwater district may represent its members in various water use issues and related legal matters, develop and operate mitigation and recharge plans, and perform other duties as described under Idaho Code § 42-5224.

A water right is the right to divert public waters and put them to a beneficial use in accordance with one’s priority date. See Idaho Code § 42-230.

Idaho’s constitution and statutes declare all waters of the state when flowing in their natural channels, including the waters of all natural springs and lakes within the boundaries of the state and groundwaters of the state, to be public waters. Idaho’s constitution and statutes also guarantee the right to appropriate those public waters. When a private right for the use of public waters is established by appropriation, a water right is established that is a real property right (much like property rights in land), and Idaho law protects real property rights. See Idaho Constitution Article XV and Idaho Code § 42 et al.

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