Montana Water Rights Database (DNRC)

Restoration Planning: This information would help find those water rights holders who might be affected by a restoration project, or who might be approached for water leasing offers.

Nature and Purpose of the Database: Information about water rights can be retrieved in two ways:

  1. in tabular form at this web site http://nris.state.mt.us/apps/dnrc/waterrightmain.asp   Note: this application requires Internet Explorer 5.0 (and above) or Netscape 6.1 (and above). 
  2. in mapped form at the NRIS online mapper. http://nris.state.mt.us/mapper  Each will be discussed. (note: these are best viewed in Internet Explorer).

At the first web site, a 'dialog box' asks the user to enter search criteria, then all water rights that meet those criteria are found and can be sorted in a number of ways into a tabular report that can be viewed and printed. In that table, a water rights key (or ID number) is a hot link to detailed info on that particular water right. To restrict your search for water rights, you can specify any combination of county, basin, stream name or water rights owner. You can also specify a range of priority dates, water source (surface or groundwater) and use (irrigation and many others). It is best not to set too many criteria at first, since you may obtain zero records. First, specify a few most important criteria, see how many records are obtained. If there are too many records, you can specify more criteria to narrow the focus of the search.

Once you've set your criteria, you're told how many records were found that meet your criteria, and you are allowed to see a report on all those records. You can sort the records in that report by: owner name, source (water body), priority date, point of diversion, and the water rights key (or ID number). You can click on the water rights key to get the full report on that water right. In addition, on the far right end of the table are links to maps of the site (points of diversion and use). These maps only show one water right at a time. Note: a water right may have more than one point on the map.

Tip: if you know a county in the basin of interest but do not know the basin, pick the county (i.e. Missoula), then you will see the basin list has been limited to basins (4th code HUCs) that intersect Missoula county. By pressing the reset button this will remove your specified county, yet it will leave the intersected or limited basin list in the basin drop down. This will allow you to obtain all the records in the basin not just those in the county of Missoula.

At the NRIS mapper, you can find water rights by specifying an area of interest (see discussion of the mapper), and generating a map of that area, showing all water rights points of diversion or use. You can click on the individual points of diversion or use and get a water rights key that is a hot link. If you click it, you'll get a full report on that water right. In addition, you will note that there are links at the bottom of the map labeled: owner, source, priority date, water rights key. If you click on one of these links, you'll see a summary report of the water rights in that area, ordered by owner, or one of the other criteria. Once again the water rights keys are links to more detailed reports on that water right. So you can obtain the same information from either of these 2 routes. The mapper simply allows you to search visually using a map, and allows you to specify more kinds of areas to be searched.

Location of information provided in these delivery systems: The entire state of Montana is covered. Current map locations are derived from legal descriptions and placed according to the automated techniques using the Public Land Surveying System. The PLSS is based on an aerial data type which introduces location errors for specific points. The points are properly placed within the township range and section, however each specific point could be represented forty feet or more from its actual location.

Nature of location info in database: (NRIS's standard system) Horizontal_Coordinate_System_Definition Grid_Coordinate_System_Name: State Plane Coordinate System 1983 SPCS_Zone_Identifier: 2500 Map_Projection_Name: Lambert Conformal Conic Standard_Parallel: 45 Standard_Parallel: 49 Longitude_of_Central_Meridian: -109.5 Latitude_of_Projection_Origin: 44.25 False_Easting: 600000 False_Northing: 0 Planar_Distance_Units: meters Geodetic_Model Horizontal_Datum_Name: North American Datum of 1983 Altitude_Encoding_Method: Implicit coordinate

Timeframe: Priority dates go back into the 1800's. The database is updated annually (last updated July 2001).

Parameters: Water right key, owner, contact info, priority date, use, rate of use (cfs), volume (acre feet/year), diversion type, township, range, section, county, basin. While GPS coordinates do not appear in the tabular database, they must be available since the points of diversion are plotted on the mapper maps.

Quality of data: Adequate for planning purposes. Note - actual locations of points of diversion or use may be 40 feet or more from the location depicted on the maps.

Responsible Party Contact:  TJ Abbenhaus, GIS Programmer/Analyst, Water Information Specialist Montana State Library/Natural Resource Information Systems 406-444-0539 tjabbenhaus@state.mt.us

Recommendations: It would help many users to provide a link to an online help guide or description like this at the web site http://nris.state.mt.us/apps/dnrc/waterrightmain.asp Currently, there appears to be no help at that site. However, Mike McLane of DNRC <mmclane@state.mt.us> has a detailed help guide that can be sent on request.

Providing GPS coordinates for points of diversion and use in the database tables would make this information more useful. Current map locations are derived from legal descriptions and placed according to the automated techniques using the Public Land Surveying System. The PLSS is based on an aerial data type which introduces locational errors for specific points. The points are properly placed within the township range and section; however, each specific point could be represented forty feet or more from its actual location. NRIS does expect to incorporate GPS coordinates n the future for any new water rights or changes in points of diversion, but providing GPS coordinates for old water rights would require a massive field data collection effort.

Maps of irrigation systems would be very useful. These are not currently available at NRIS.