A number of steps go into obtaining a water right. First, an individual or entity seeking a water right must file an application with the Division of Water Resources (DWR). The correct application form must be submitted. DWR will make a variety of determinations regarding whether to approve the application including, but not limited to, a safe yield analysis and whether the water use will interfere with other area water rights, minimum desirable streamflow, or the public interest.
If DWR approves the application, it will issue a permit. After the permit is issued, the applicant must complete the diversion works. An example of a diversion works is the drilling of a well. After the point of diversion is completed, the applicant then has 4 to 5 years to perfect the water right. An extension of time may be sought during the perfection period. Perfection essentially means proper diversion of the water and utilization of the water right.
After the perfection period is completed, a field inspection is conducted by DWR. The field inspector will assess such things as where the water is being used and the rate of diversion, among many other factors. If the field inspection passes muster, a draft certificate of appropriation is issued. The applicant then has 30 days to comment on the draft certificate.
After the above process is completed, a certificate of appropriation is issued. The certificate must then be filed in the Register of Deeds office in the appropriate county to become effective. The applicant must then file annual reports with DWR to keep the water right active.