Department of Natural Resources. Division of Water Rights

Entity: 1332
Entity Type: State Government


The agency was created in 1897 and called the Office of the State Engineer. In 1963 the name was changed to the Division of Water Rights, but the public sometimes still refers to the division as the State Engineer's Office. The Utah Division of Water Rights is responsible for the general supervision and management of the use of the state's waters. Activities regulated include appropriation, distribution and adjudication of water, as well as dam safety, stream alterations, geothermal and well drilling.

Biography/History Notes

The mission of the Division is to provide order and certainty in the beneficial use of Utah's water.

Purpose: "Process applications and deal with issues concerning water rights." (From "Capitol Connections" newsletter, volume 1, issue 6, October 1993, page 4.)?"The Utah Division of Water Rights maintains a paper file for each water right in the State of Utah. Each file contains correspondence and other historical documents which pertain to the right. The Division also maintains a computerized database of water rights which contains pertinent information for each right. Various search and listing routines are available online to access the database information quickly and easily. Paper documents in individual water right files are currently being scanned into a document imaging system (about 20 percent of the documents have been completed) and are available either electronically with the database information described above or can be viewed in person at the Division's Salt Lake City office." (From the Utah Division of Water Rights web page,

Unlike other divisions within the Department of Natural Resources, the Division of Water Rights has no policy board or division director in the standard pattern. The State Engineer, whose office and duties are prescribed by statute, directs the Division of Water Rights. The State Engineer is appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate to a four-year term. (From "State and Local Government in Utah," 1979 ed., p. 148.)

The Division of Water Rights came under the supervision of the newly created Department of Natural Resources (agency 702) in 1967. ? "Water Right activities are managed by five sections in the office. The Appropriations section manages Water Right applications and maintains the Water Rights file room. The Dam Safety section administers the state dam safety and stream alteration program. The Distribution section manages Water Right Adjudication functions, and administers Water Right decrees through River Commissioners which account for and distribute water users. The Technical Services section performs special studies, manages the USGS cooperative program, provides expert assistance for other sections of the office and maintains the division's computer systems. The division operates seven regional offices which perform water right work within their respective region." (From the Utah Division of Water Rights web page,