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WWRC 97-05h
Wyoming/Utah Interstate Cooperative Water Rights Project: Wyoming State Engineer's Office and Utah State Enginerr's Office

An interstate cooperative GIS project was developed between the Wyoming State Engineer's Office and the Utah State Engineer's Office based on the Upper Colorado River Basin Interstate Compact. The Compact deals with the waters of Henry's Fork and tributaries which originate in the State of Utah and flow into the State of Wyoming. Due to the Compact, waters diverted from Henry's Fork, Beaver Creek, Burnt Fork, Birch Creek and their tributaries shall be administered without regard to the stateline on the basis of an interstate priority schedule to be prepared by Wyoming and Utah.

The purpose of this project is to identify and resolve the differences between Utah and Wyoming for adjudication and administration of the water rights lying in both states. In order to resolve the differences, it was determined that all the lands and water rights involved should be mapped using Geographic Information System (GIS). Water rights in Wyoming are tied to physical locations that are owned by the possessor of the water right, therefore, if one owns the land then one owns the water right. Since a water right is defined by a geographical location then a GIS provides a more efficient system of water rights administration. Once mapped, the acreages, sources, ditches, and conflicts can be identified and a delivery (priority) schedule can be prepared and delivered to the Colorado River Commission for approval and use by both state's water administration officials.

This project has several interrelated problems that GIS can address. Over time, many permits were issued without regard to the existence of other permitted water rights which resulted in some lands having more than one primary water right. The effect is an overappropriation of water. Since no composite map of all water rights within a drainage existed, the Wyoming State Engineer's Office used GIS to provide the functionality in determining overlapping water right permits. Once the overlapping area is known, then field investigations can be made and administrative resolution implemented. To further complicate the issue, the state of Utah also issued water right permits for diversions from Utah streams for irrigation of lands in Wyoming which may overlap Wyoming water rights. In addition to the coexistence of Wyoming/Utah water rights, each state has different water laws and policies on administration of water. Through cooperation between the states, Wyoming will administer the water rights (both Wyoming and Utah) within these specific river basins regardless of stateline.

The project area is located in southwestern Wyoming in Sweetwater and Uinta counties. There are 510 water rights mapped using GIS technology, 250 Wyoming water rights and 260 Utah water rights. These maps will be used to conduct on-the-ground inspections in the future. By matching the paper water rights to the actual field situation, the actual use of water will be clarified. GIS coverages that are completed for the Burntfork area are U.S.G.S. quadrangle boundaries, township and range, section lines, resurvey tracts, hydrology, Wyoming water rights and ditches, Utah water rights and ditches. In addition to the GIS coverages, there are related databases that give additional permit information, water right status, acreage locations and priority information for Wyoming.

If you would like additional information or have questions about the water rights project please contact either Nancy McCann or Shari Feitner.

Nancy McCann
Special Projects Administrator
Wyoming State Engineer's Office
Herschler Building, 4E
Cheyenne, WY 82002
Phone: (307) 777-5958
Fax: (307) 777-5451
Email: nmccan@missc.state.wy.us

Shari Feltner
Water Rights Specialist
Wyoming State Engineer's Office
Herschler Building, 4E
Cheyenne, WY 82002
Phone: (307)777-6149
Fax: (307) 777-5451
Email: sfeltn@missc.state.wy.us

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