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Water Rights

In Idaho, we have two distinctly separate areas, as water goes, North Idaho, where clear fresh water is abundant, and central & southern Idaho, where it is not nearly as abundant. Water here is easy to get to, and permit & license wise, pretty easy to get through the “rights” to it as well. Below is an explanation & clarification I received from our Water Board on November 22, 2013, enjoy:

In the State of Idaho, there are 2 kinds of water rights, surface water and ground water.

A well is considered to be ground water, this applies to any water well on an individual domestic property, (NOT multi family or commercial, etc.) and the owner of the well is entitled to up to 13,000 gallons per day of water from the well.


Initially, you need a permit if you intend to drill a well. The Water Right is what authorizes you to use the water coming from the well that you drill. There is an exemption that makes it to where you don’t need a water right to use the water, that exemption is defined in Idaho Code 42-111, and states that generally speaking, if you use the water for in house use, eating, showering, washing a car, etc. & watering of domestic livestock & irrigation of up to 1/2 acre, the total use cannot exceed 13,000 gallons per day, without a permit. The permit cost to drill a well is $75.00, non-domestic wells are $200.00, and a non-domestic well is a well that would be used for purposes other than using the water for a normal household.


The second type of water rights effects any surface source, like a spring, pond, creek, lake or river. So, let’s say you have a creek, and you’d like to take 5,000 gallons of water a day from the creek. Here’s how it works:

You apply for a permit, the permit fee is dependent on how much water you are applying for, permits start at $100.00 which covers .2 CF per second, or about 10 garden hoses running at one time. The next level up is $250.00 and covers 1 CF per second, which is a tremendous amount of water, or a 12 inch by 12 inch cube of water…..per second.

Takes typically 6 months to a year to get the permit and you can’t start using the water legally until you get the permit.

After you get the permit, you develop the use of the water, install your pipes, etc, and then submit a proof of beneficial use, (a form on their website) will cost you $50.00 for the lower use & $100.00 for the higher use.

At that point, the State will send out someone to do a field examination, (which is just them looking at what you have done & how much water is actually flowing through) & then they’ll issue the license. It will take years to get the State out to your place to examine it.


Spring Development, as long as the actual spring opening is less than 18 vertical feet below the surface, do not need to be permitted in this State. You do, however, need a license to use the water from any spring development. Call me if you want more information on this, it is pretty lazy stuff…

The State of Idaho does not want a trade in water rights, so if you don’t use the water you have a right to use for more than (5) consecutive years, you have forfeited the right to that water. Also, the State doesn’t have any processes in place to remove those rights…if you have any questions, please contact the Water Agent at the Regional Office in Coeur d’Alene.


Hope it helps-


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