Ranch News

Water Rights and Ranch Ownership

Throughout my 15-year real estate career at Live Water Properties, I have worked to foster lasting relationships with regional experts and professionals who I have come to rely on when dealing with western ranch transactions.  Recently, I sat down with Roger Warner, Senior Hydrologist and Vice President of Rocky Mountain Environmental to discuss the importance of water right’s review during the ranch transfer process, pond and habitat creation for wildlife enhancement and other common issues.

Roger Warner: I’m Roger Warner, I am a Hydrologist here at Rocky Mountain Environmental.  I’ve been here for 11 years. Prior to that I was with the Idaho Department of Water Resources for a period of 5 years.  In my career I’ve been a geologist/hydrologist for the better part of 27 years now, almost 30 years.

Tate Jarry: Why should a buyer that’s looking at a western ranch look into the water rights?

Roger Warner: Well, I think they should look into the water rights for a couple of reasons: one to make sure the water has been used on the property and that there are no ongoing disputes with any other neighbor or any other entity. Also to determine the validity of the right itself.

Tate Jarry:  Roger, a fair number of our buyer clients share an interest in acquiring investment properties that have water rights.  They intend to convert these water rights from consumptive use to beneficial use for the creation of ponds and wildlife habitat on the ranch.  Have you been involved in this process?

Roger Warner: We have been very successful in doing that.  I’ve got some great staff members that are practiced in it, almost as long as I have been. We know the people involved. We know the engineering calculations necessary to make the conversion. Sometimes there are protests involved and often times, those are people we have worked for or with prior to making those changes. We can often help message that so that it can go forward.  Sometimes it even requires a purchase of water rights and we maintain a portfolio of water rights available for purchase.

Tate Jarry: So if there are not enough water rights on a property is it possible for a buyer to acquire them and transfer them to the property?

Roger Warner: It is possible, yes!  That’s becoming more so, we have done quite a bit of this kind of work in Teton Valley, especially on the buy and purchase of water rights. If a new buyer is coming forward and purchases the property and lands haven’t been used, irrigated for six to seven years then, they are not going to be able to make changes immediately. They may have to resume the intended water usage.

Tate Jarry: To prove up usage?

Roger Warner: Yes, and that could be a real sticking point, I think for a new buyer.  If I was a new buyer anxious to hit the ground running and get going on my (pond) projects I’d be a little perturbed that I had to resume usage on something I had no interest in continuing to do.

To learn more about western water rights, contact Tate Jarry at tate@livewaterproperties.com

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