FY 2016 Appropriation

Mission: To provide order and certainty in the beneficial use of Utah's water.

Directed by the State Engineer, the Division of Water Rights is responsible for the administration and management of the Utah's water resources (click on the link http://naturalresources.utah.gov/divisions/water-rights.html to go to the website). The division's primary workload is the processing of water right applications while managing the existing water rights' records, regulating the diversion and use of water, and preparing proposed determinations for water right adjudications. It also oversees dam safety, stream channel alterations and water well drilling. The Division of Water Rights is the only division in the Department of Natural Resources that does not have a board.

Funding History

Funding Issues

Canal Safety Amendments, HB 370 (2014 GS)

This request is to provide funding for HB 370 (2014 GS) for the remaining three years. The fiscal note stated that it "could cost the Division of Water Rights $130,000 per year from the General Fund for FY 2015, FY 2016, and FY 2017 to complete the inventory list of water conveyance systems..." The division only got funding for FY 2015, and they are now requesting the funding for FY 2016.

Water Rights Adjudication

Funding for additional staff for the judicial system to speed up the adjudication process.
Appropriation Overview

During the 2015 General Session, the Legislature appropriated for Fiscal Year 2016, $10,922,400 from all sources for Water Rights. This is a 10.3 percent increase from Fiscal Year 2015 revised estimated amounts from all sources. The total includes $8,586,900 from the General/Education Funds, an increase of 8.6 percent from revised Fiscal Year 2015 estimates.

Appropriation Adjustments

In addition to statewide compensation and internal service fund cost increases, the following appropriation adjustments were made during the 2015 General Session:

DescriptionOngoingOne-Time Attorney General Dedicated Credit Adjustments$24,600$0
OngoingOne-TimeFinancing Source
$24,600$0General Fund
This item designates additional funding appropriated to an agency to pay higher costs for Attorney General services, due to statewide and AG-specific compensation increases.
Canal Safety Amendments, HB 370 (2014 GS)$0$130,000
OngoingOne-TimeFinancing Source
$0$130,000General Fund, One-time
This request is to provide funding for HB 370 (2014 GS) for the remaining three years. The fiscal note stated that it "could cost the Division of Water Rights $130,000 per year from the General Fund for FY 2015, FY 2016, and FY 2017 to complete the inventory list of water conveyance systems..." The division only got funding for FY 2015, and they are now requesting the funding for FY 2016.
Water Rights Adjudication$438,000$0
OngoingOne-TimeFinancing Source
$438,000$0General Fund
Funding for additional staff for the judicial system to speed up the adjudication process.

The following are the top measures chosen by the division management to gauge the success of the division.

Report of Conveyances, Monthly Average of Applications Backlog

This measure tracks the backlog in unapproved report of conveyances applications at the end of each month.


Proof & Elections, Monthly Average of Applications Backlog

This measure keeps track of the backlog of proof and election applications over time.

Proofs and elections data

Days to Process Application Types 1-5

This measure tracks the average number of days to process applications types 1 through 5.


The simple definition of the five application types is as follows: 1-Simple, usually non-protested, may not need to be advertised. 2-Still simple, usually advertised, if protested, resolution is simple, hearing is rare. 3-All advertised, may be protested, hearings are common but not always necessary. 4-All advertised, hearings likely, extensive research and investigation needed. 5-Generic, all other filings.


The following laws govern operations of the division:

  • UCA 73-1-1 states that all waters in the state are public property, with all rights to use them subject to beneficial use.
  • UCA 73-1-4 requires waters not put to beneficial use to be subject to having the rights forfeited under certain circumstances.
  • UCA 73-1-10 states that water rights are considered real property, though the water itself is not. Water rights are transferred by deed recorded in the county where the water is diverted and used. Water users submit a Report of Water Right Conveyance to the state engineer from which water right records are updated.
  • UCA 73-2-1 establishes the position of state engineer and makes him/her responsible for the general administrative supervision of the waters of the state.
  • UCA 73-2-14 requires the state engineer to charge fees for various applications and permits. Fees must be kept as dedicated credits and used for advertising the changes applied for, processing applications, and hiring employees to assist with processing.
  • UCA 73-2-25 sets forth the state engineer's enforcement powers.
  • UCA 73-3 sets forth the process to acquire the right to use unappropriated public waters or change their use as an application to the state engineer. Water must be used for a beneficial purpose to process the application. The doctrine of "first in time, first in rights" is stated.
  • UCA 73-3a-104 gives the state engineer power to make rules relating to exporting water out of state.
  • UCA 73-3-25 grants authority to regulate and license water well drillers.
  • UCA 73-3-29 requires a written approval from the state engineer for any relocation of a natural stream channel.
  • UCA 73-4 sets forth the procedure for judicial determination of water rights and state engineer responsibilities in connection with that process.
  • UCA 73-5 gives the state engineer responsibility to carry into effect the judgments of the courts and cause waters to be controlled or divided in accordance with the water rights. Authority and procedure are provided for the state engineer to appoint water commissioners to distribute waters of a river or source to the users under a self-funded program. Water users are required to install and maintain control and measuring works to facilitate the division of water and report use to the state engineer. The state engineer is granted authority to establish ground water management plans to regulate groundwater withdrawals within the safe yield of the groundwater basin.
  • UCA 73-5a-106 requires dams to be classified according to hazard and use.
  • UCA 73-5a-501 requires the state engineer to inspect hazard dams in increments commensurate with the relative risk, but not less than once every five years.
  • UCA 73-5a-503 requires the state engineer, after a dam inspection, to specify the necessary maintenance for the dam. The owner is responsible for the maintenance.

The office of the State Engineer was created in 1897. In 1903, Utah surface water law was established. Legislation passed in 1919 for adjudicating water rights and for governing dam safety. In 1935, groundwater was included in the water law. The name of the State Engineer's Office was changed in 1963 to The Division of Water Rights.

The State Engineer's responsibility is to manage the state's water resources, providing citizens opportunity to make beneficial use of the waters while protecting prior rights and the welfare interests of the public. New uses of water or a change in existing use must be approved by the State Engineer prior to the undertaking. Once a use is authorized, the State Engineer monitors development to assure the use actually occurs before a permanent or perfected water right certificate is issued. Once perfected, a water right is a permanent right as long as the use persists, but the right can be lost or forfeited through neglect (failure to continue to beneficially use the water). That policy is necessary to encourage movement of water rights to those seeking to place water to beneficial use rather than just being held by those attempting to monopolize the resource.

Intent Language

HB0003: Item 108

Under the terms of 63J-1-603 of the Utah Code, the Legislature intends that appropriations provided for the Division of Water Rights in Item 16, Chapter 5, Laws of Utah 2014, shall not lapse at the close of FY 2015. Expenditures of these funds are limited to: Computer Equipment/Software $40,000; Adjudication $50,000, Special Projects/Studies $150,000; Employee Incentive/Training $30,000, Equipment/Supplies $50,000, Current Expense $30,000.

SB0002: Item 155

The Legislature intends that the Division of Water Rights work with the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst to realign its appropriations unit structure to better match its operations.

As a regulatory agency, most of the funding for the division comes from the General Fund. The division also receives funding from other sources, as follows:

  • UCA 59-12-103(5) requires that $175,000 (1% of the $17.5 million on the 1/16% sales tax earmarked for water projects) be used as Dedicated Credit for water rights adjudication.
  • UCA 73-2-14 allows the State Engineer to use fees collected from water right applications as Dedicated Credits to fund the costs of processing applications.
  • UCA 59-12-103(5) (f) and (g) transfers 6% of the amount of sales tax exceeding the $17.5 million (after the distribution of $500,000 to DNR for watershed and $150,000 to Water Resources for cloudseeding) as Dedicated Credits to the Division of Water Rights. The funding is to cover the costs incurred for employing additional technical staff for the administration of water rights. The unexpended Dedicated Credits exceeding $150,000 lapse to the Water Resources Conservation and Development Fund created in Section 73-10-24.
  • UCA 73-5-1 establishes a Water Commissioners Fund and directs the State Engineer to fix a schedule of costs of distribution to be borne pro rata by water users. Water user payments are deposited into the fund and expenses of distribution (primarily commissioner salaries), are paid from the fund. The division manages the fund as collection agent and processes payments. Neither the fund nor the commissioners are included in this analysis or the appropriations act.

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COBI contains unaudited data as presented to the Legislature by state agencies at the time of publication. For audited financial data see the State of Utah's Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports.