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WWRC 89-44
A Critical Look at Wyoming Water Law


From its earliest history Wyoming has used the prior appropriation doctrine to allocate water rights. Over time, Wyoming water law has evolved to accommodate changing needs and values, but the basic scheme established by the first state legislature for allocating water rights remains intact. Indeed, so innovative was Wyoming's water allocation system when first adopted that it was soon emulated by other western states. This article offers a comprehensive overview of Wyoming water law. Potential problems with the law are also identified and analyzed, Some of these problems are individually significant, and though the Wyoming water law system remains fundamentally sound, selective changes to the state's laws or regulations will be necessary if Wyoming is to maintain its leadership role in western water law.

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