Registration of water usage

The 1996 Water Act required that farmers and ranchers apply to codify their traditional user water rights prior to Dec 31, 2001. I thought at the time this was simply a registration process which I did. We were under the impression that this ensured our rights to water so many head of cattle in perpetuity.
It appears I was wrong. A number of ranchers along the Milk River basin and perhaps other locations have recently received notice that their file has been closed because the department of environment was unable to contact them regarding their file.
To their knowledge no attempt was made to contact them, and they were unaware of any issues. Continued usage of water will be in contravention of the Act. Their options are to reapply, which they can’t do because it is past the deadline for applying.
Aaron Brower, one of the ranchers affected has been talking to people up the chain of command trying to resolve the issue.
Some people he has talked to have suggested that there is too much leakage in the system and the end goal is to get all water usage on a well or pipeline with a meter on it.
Along with a meter, of course, no doubt will be a price tag.
In Aaron’s case, the file will be proceeding to court as they have broken about three laws in the process of trying shut him down. This is a heads up. Brower is at the beginning of the alphabet. The rest of us may be waiting for our turn.
In effect, his four generation ranch will be closed if they have their way. We need to get to the bottom of this mess.
Pat Rutledge

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