WRDS Library [Home]
Digital Library Publications Videos Card Catalog

WWRC 97-05i
GIS-Based Surface Water Rights Mapping In The Tounge River Basin


The incorporation of surface water right data into a Geographic Information System (GIS) allows for a comprehensive and efficient way to store both the spatial and tabular data associated with water rights. The process by which these water right data are converted to a GIS format has to be flexible, because, over time, the data have been stored in several different formats. This paper explains the basics of the Wyoming water right system, GIS, and their integration.

Streams, lakes, and springs were declared property of the State by the Wyoming Constitution and can not be used without permission from the State. Those who wish to use water from these sources must apply for a surface water right permit. Surface water right permits are issued by the Wyoming State Engineer after examination and approval of the application. This permit must be secured before any work can begin on the water diversion structure. After completion of the construction and the application of water to beneficial use as described in the permit, the State Board of Control will issue a certificate of appropriation, which means the water right is adjudicated. There are 4 types of surface water right facilities:

A lot of water rights are established for irrigation purposes. A diversion of 1 cubic foot per second per 70 acres of land is provided for these permits.

These permit records are currently kept in the State Engineer's Office (SEO) surface water division database. This relational database (Advanced Revelation or AREV) keeps a record for each permit. Under each record are fields for owner, location, purpose, amount of water used, priority date, and other relevant information (Table 1). For each record in this digital database, a copy of the permit map is kept on file. In addition to some of the same information as the database record, this document contains a rough map with surveyors notes describing and depicting the actual location of the diversion and the area of use. Water rights dating back to the 1800's are stored this way with some of the early water rights recorded on linen and paper, while most newer water rights are recorded on mylar. The link between these documents and the records in the database is the permit number. In order to retrieve both spatial and tabular data, both sources must be consulted. The current system causes problems; over time, some lands have been issued more than one permit while others have been mapped in the wrong location. Confirmation of beneficial use is only possible through an expensive and time consuming field check, and finally, paper maps degrade over time and need to be replaced and updated periodically.

By using a Geographic Information System (GIS) to store both spatial and attribute data for these water rights in a comprehensive database, problems as described earlier can be addressed more effectively.

Water Resources Publications List
Water Resources Data System Library | Water Resources Data System Homepage