Under Oregon law, all water is publicly owned. With some exceptions, cities, farmers, factory owners and other users must obtain a permit or water right from the Water Resources Department to use water from any source— whether it is underground, or from lakes or streams. Landowners with water flowing past, through, or under their property do not automatically have the right to use that water without a permit from the Department.


Water rights are not automatically granted. You may have drilled your irrigation well many years ago, but have you obtained your Water Rights Certificate?

Water rights in Oregon are typically obtained in a three-step process.

  1. The applicant applys to the Oregon Water Resources Department for a permit to use water.
  2. Once a permit is granted, the applicant must construct a water system and begin using water.
  3. After water is applied, the permit holder must hire a certified water right examiner to complete a survey of water use and submit to the Department a map and a report detailing how and where water has been applied.

If water has been used according to the provisions of the permit, a water right certificate is issued after evaluation of the report findings.

Water-Use Permits

A permit is mearly the authorization from the Department necessary to begin constructing a water system and begin using water. Many wells are operating under their permit and have not finished the final process of obtaining their water rights certificate.

Once the Water Resources Department issues a permit, if the user complies with the conditions of the permit and develops their water right, the Department cannot later decide to revoke or change the permit or impose new standards for the use. To protect your interest in your irrigation system you must perfect your water right.

Final Certificates: the “perfected” water right

The Third Step is “proving up” the water use
Once the water project is completed, the permit holder must send notice to the Department that work has been completed. The permit holder is then required to submit proof of water use to the Department. Until you complete the third step in the process you will not have your water right. Part of the process in proving the water use is to conduct a “Flow Test” also known as a “draw down” test.


Merrill Well Drilling can help with the process of obtaining water rights. We can work with your certified water right examiner and perform your “Flow Test”. Give us a call or contact us by email for a consultation.