TABLE 3.1 Approaches to Administering Water Rights and Managing CBM Produced Water in Six Western States


North Dakota



Water rights doctrine

Prior appropriation doctrine; all water is property of public, with water rights allocated for beneficial uses

Prior appropriation doctrine; all water is property of the state of Montana, to be used for the benefit of the people

Prior appropriation doctrine; all natural waters within the state are property of the state, with water rights allocated for beneficial uses

Designated beneficial uses

Includes domestic, municipal or public, livestock, irrigation, industrial (including mining and manufacturing), fish, wildlife, and recreational activity uses

Defined as a use of water for the benefit of the appropriator, other persons, or the public; including, but not limited to, agriculture, commercial, domestic, dewatering, erosion control, fire protection, fish and fish raceways, geothermal, industrial, irrigation, mining, municipal, navigation, power, pollution abatement, recreational uses, sediment control, storage, stock water, waterfowl, water lease, and wildlife

Recognized beneficial uses include irrigation, municipal, industrial, power generation, recreational stock, domestic, pollution control, instream flows, and miscellaneousa

Groundwater policy

Prevent the contamination of public water supplies, including surface and groundwater sources

Groundwater use in declared “controlled groundwater basins” (e.g., Powder River Basin) is governed by specific regulations to protect limited or declining supplies

Surface water and groundwater are treated as hydrologically separate; however, if upon investigation, a hydrological connection is found between the two sources, the water use is treated as one source

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