McAfee & Taft AgLINC - May 2013: Do you have enough water?

by McAfee & Taft

Unless you are located in far southeastern Oklahoma, chances are that you could always use some extra water to grow your agribusiness. Oklahoma law requires that if you use groundwater or water from an Oklahoma stream for agricultural, industrial or other non-domestic purposes, you need to apply for and obtain a permit from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB).

The OWRB reviews 12,688 permits for the use of almost 6.2 million acre-feet of surface and groundwater each year. Of that total, groundwater permits make up about 80% of all the active water use permits and account for close to two-thirds of all permitted water use in Oklahoma. Aside from handling all ground and streamwater use appropriation and permitting, the duties and responsibilities of the OWRB also include water quality monitoring, dam safety, floodplain management, water supply planning, technical studies and research, and water resource mapping.

The use of water for domestic purposes, which is defined as use by an individual or a family for household use, farm and domestic animals up to the normal grazing capacity of the land, and irrigation of a garden, orchard or lawn of three acres or less, does not require an OWRB permit. However, if you use water for any other purpose, including agricultural or industrial uses or for feeding operations, you will need to apply for one of the several permits the OWRB offers to Oklahoma landowners.

Streamwater Permits

Oklahoma streamwater is considered public water and is generally available to any person who obtains a permit, with prior permit holders establishing superior rights to later applicants. In order to obtain a streamwater permit, an applicant must establish that:

  1. Unappropriated water is available,
  2. The applicant needs the water and will put it to a beneficial use,
  3. The proposed use will not interfere with domestic use or existing permitted uses by any other permitted user, and
  4. Any use of the water outside its own stream system will not interfere with uses inside its stream system. A streamwater permit specifies the amount of water you are permitted to use and the length of time for which it is permitted. If you fail to use the permitted amount of water within the time specified on your permit, the OWRB retains the right to cancel or reduce your right by the amount of unused water.

Groundwater Permits

Unlike streamwater, which is considered public water, Oklahoma groundwater belongs to the land surface owner and may be used subject to the Oklahoma Groundwater Law. The OWRB is currently studying the state’s aquifers/groundwater basins and making determinations regarding the maximum amount that may be withdrawn from each aquifer in a given year (assuming a 20-year minimum usable life for the aquifer). This total is divided into an “equal proportionate share” for each acre of land overlying the aquifer. In most instances, a groundwater permit is issued to a landowner based on the equal proportionate share of that aquifer multiplied by the number of overlying acres owned or leased by the permit applicant. In order to obtain a regular or temporary permit, an applicant must establish that:

  1. The applicant owns or leases the land surface,
  2. The land lies over a groundwater basin,
  3. The proposed use will be beneficial, and
  4. Impermissible waste of groundwater will not occur.

Permitting Process

Both streamwater and groundwater permit applications are reviewed by members of the OWRB staff to determine whether the applicant has complied with all the elements necessary to obtain the requested type of permit. If the applicant has met these elements, the applicant submits public notice of his or her application, and the OWRB invites any neighboring landowner to submit written protests if that landowner disagrees that a permit should be issued to the applicant. If a valid protest is received during the notice period, an administrative hearing will be held by an OWRB hearing examiner. If the notice period passes without any protests being lodged, the OWRB reviews the applicable law and makes a final decision as to whether an applicant has established that he or she is entitled to the requested use of water.

Oklahoma law allows certain short-term permit applications for lesser amounts of streamwater or groundwater to be approved by the OWRB executive director. But these short-term permits cannot be extended beyond a maximum of 90 days.

Currently, the OWRB is extremely backlogged in processing permits, so if you anticipate needing additional water for agricultural or industrial uses in the upcoming year, it is never too early to start working through the permitting process. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding your current water use or future irrigation or business plans, and we can work with you to ensure that you are fully in compliance with the OWRB and that you have sufficient water to meet your needs.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© McAfee & Taft | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

McAfee & Taft

McAfee & Taft on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.