Water Rights and Natural Resources Law 2017-09-15T18:02:14+00:00

Water Rights

What are Water rights? The government, both federal and state, defines what water usage rights its citizens have. Water rights in the United States is based on 4 areas:

  • Public regulation (environmental, public health, and fisheries regulations, as well as flood control)
  • Intersecting public and private interests
  • Water project law (which defines who operates and finances the local public water works distribution system)
  • Treaty rights of Native Americans

Water Rights in New Mexico

You have a right to water in New Mexico. The law states that all natural waters in the state are for the public and can be distributed for use that is beneficial.

“[…] all natural waters flowing in streams and water courses belong to the public and are subject to appropriation for beneficial use.” -72-1-1 New Mexico Administrative Code [1]

What is considered beneficial use has not been officially defined by New Mexico law. Currently, it is a general term defining uses ranging from irrigation to recreational fishing and even stock watering. You can obtain what is known as a “real property right” in order to divert water for your use. Water rights may be transferred between persons or entities, but unless the transfer is done through the State Engineer, the agreement is only binding between the two parties and not the government.

“[…] the state engineer [has] general supervision of waters of the state and of the measurement, appropriation and distribution thereof and such other duties as required.” -72-2-1 New Mexico Administrative Code [1]

It is the duty of the Office of the State Engineer to ensure fair distribution of water for both private and public usage.

[1] Water Rights, Regulations, & Guidelines (http://www.ose.state.nm.us/WR/WRrules.php)

Don’t Be Denied Your Water Rights

Watson Smith is dedicated to protecting your fundamental rights as an American citizen. If you are being wrongfully denied appropriation of public waters for your use, call immediately: 575-528-0500. Everyone deserves fair access to water.

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