Revised: July 13, 2004
An adjudication of water rights is an action in a district court to determine the water rights on the source or in the area involved in the action. The State Engineer is a party to the action with the statutory responsibility to prepare a proposed determination of water rights (PDET) which serves as the basis for the court's decree on the water rights in the area.
A thorough search is made of the division's records, files and databases which relate to the adjudication area. Further research is required at the County Recorder and Clerk Offices to identify land ownership where necessary and to obtain information or legal documents that help establish water rights that are not on the divisions records or that help clarify or define water rights that are part of the divisions records.
Maps of the area are created using digital aerial imagery and location coordinates gathered by GPS methods. A hydrographic survey of the area is conducted and field investigations are made with the water user or water provider to verify his sources of water, points of diversion, and specific places and nature of use. An evaluation is made of the water right based on the current use of water or the use of water within the recent past (five years).
When the various aspects of the water rights are gathered and evaluated, the staff assists the water user in preparing a Statement of Water Users Claim for each perfected water right, or group of water rights, and requests the water user to review and sign the claim form. When all of the perfected water rights in the adjudication area have been defined by a Statement of Water Users Claim, a PDET book is compiled and published. A copy of the book is distributed to each water user that is listed in the book. The PDET is the State Engineer's recommendation to the court regarding the status and quantification of the water rights. A copy of the PDET, the hydrographic survey maps, the original Statements of Water Users Claims, and other required supporting documentation are filed with the district court.
After the PDET book has been distributed, the statute provides for a 90 day protest period within which protests may be filed objecting to a particular water right listed in the PDET, or an attribute of a water right, or the omission of a water right. Objections are filed with the appropriate district court.
Following the protest period, the division staff works with the Attorney General's Office to resolve the protests that were filed. This effort often involves additional field work and discussions with the protestant and the water user (if the protestant is not the water user). Once this effort is completed, a Pre-Trial Order is prepared for the courts signature. The Pre-Trial Order essentially decrees those rights listed in the PDET which were not protested and those which were protested but resolved. The Pre-Trial Order sets forth those protests which could not be resolved and which must be determined by the court. Once the remaining protests have been settled or determined by the court, an Interlocutory Decree is prepared and signed by the court. This Decree supersedes all prior findings or Decrees.
All of the hydrologic areas of the state are currently involved in a court ordered adjudication of water rights except the Weber River and Sevier River drainages. The water rights on the Sevier and Weber Rivers were adjudicated and decreed in the 1920's and 1930's. The adjudications in most of the other areas of the state were started in the 1950's through the early 1970's.