water rights

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Possibly the longest running lawsuit in Wyoming history came to an end last Friday in Worland. Judge Robert Skar signed a final decree that brought closure to a controversial water rights case. The case examined some 20,000 possible water rights claims in and around the Wind River Indian Reservation over the course of 37 years. Water law professor Jason Robison was at the historic signing.

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Twenty-thirteen marks the 14th year of the worst drought in the past century, so Colorado River Basin states are following 2007 agreement guidelines, and releasing less water from a major reservoir, Lake Powell.


Only 7.48 million acre feet will be released from Lake Powell next water year, down about 9% from normal levels. It’s the lowest release since the 1960s.   

Representative Rosie Berger of Big Horn is sponsoring a bill that would allow water rights holders to temporarily change their use to benefit certain fisheries areas in the state.

Under current law, if a private citizen wants to restore in-stream-flow on his property, he must permanently donate his water rights to the state. Also, holders can lose their water rights if they don’t use them to their full extent. Berger’s bill would allow holders to retain water rights, even if they stop irrigating part-way through the summer… thus leaving more water for the fish.