Water Rights In Wyoming

25 March, 2013

Around Park County, this time of the year brings residents and visitors many scents of the season, including blooming flowers, fresh rain… and smoke.

This is the time that many farmers and ranchers begin to burn their lands to make the soil riper for the upcoming planting season. Additionally, burning is a common way to clean out irrigation ditches that have had seasons of waste and weeds build up in them.

Irrigation is the key to our area’s ability to provide a healthy crop supply every year. As early (and even recent!) settlers of Wyoming quickly discovered, the arid lands of this area needed more than the 6-10 inches of rain to complete a crop. Construction of the Buffalo Bill Dam (six miles west of Cody) was necessary to bring water to the near 90,000 acres of dry, northwestern Wyoming.

Early settlers dreamed of implementing the canal and ditch techniques perfected in Europe thousands of years earlier to channel water to the area. In 1910, the 325-foot-heigh dam and its contained Buffalo Bill Reservoir were completed, as well as the rest of the Shoshone Project, which included a system of canals, tunnels, and diversion dams that continue to irrigate more than 93,000 acres of beans, alfalfa, sugar beets, and other crops. Cody Wyoming Buffalo Bill Dam

Because of this complex system, farmers and ranchers had to quickly secure their irrigation water rights, and these rights remain important to today’s home and/or land buyers, as well.

Keep in mind that if you are buying property in this area that will require irrigating, there are many legal responsibilities to consider with your water rights. These responsibilities include (and are NOT limited to) digging and constructing drain ditches, sharing water with nearby land owners, and caring for your runoff water.

For more information about water rights and documents, contact your local UW Extension Office or Patrick T. Tyrrell, the Wyoming State Engineer, at seoleg@seo.wyo.gov or (307) 777-6475. The Department of Environmental Quality ((307) 777-7781), your local County Health Departments, and the National Resources Conservation Service (with the USDA) will have information about water quality, and your City or County Planning Office will inform you about any city or county zoning restrictions.Buffalo Bill Resevoir Cody Wyoming

If you are building your home on irrigated land, special consideration of septic system and farm animal placement will need to be made, as well. Your UW Extension Office is always a good resource for expert opinions, and you can check out http://wyo.gov/seo/ for state information on irrigation and Legal Aspects Relating to Irrigation Ditch Rights and Easements.

For more information on Wyoming’s Water Laws, visit http://ces.uwyo.edu and click on publications for a summary of the laws in place.


Springtime Awakening in the Rockies

20 April, 2012

This winter was very mild and spring arrived early this year. Our horses started shedding in February. They must have know something we do not. After a sleepy winter, there are other subtle signs of an awakening spring. One of the first signs is the yucca turning green. The yucca or soapweed yucca plant is found in the dryer areas of Wyoming. It has a beautiful white flower which blooms every 3 years. The sage gradually turn color and green sprouts of grass appear across the prairie. The blue birds have come back and I heard my first meadow lark sing this past weekend. You will often see smoke rise as the farmers prepare for planting and burn the irrigation ditches in preparation for water being turned on sometime in April. This will vary with irrigation districts. Plowing has started in Yellowstone National Park and roads will open up in late April and early May.undefinedundefined

Water Rights In Wyoming

25 January, 2012

We often get asked about water rights or irrigation. In the State of Wyoming, all water is owned by the State and has been adjudicated through a priority system dating back to territorial dates to certain lands. If a property has adjudicated water rights attached to the legal description, those water rights stay with the land when it is sold. Wyoming is a high desert, semi-arid climate with average rainfall being 6 to 10 inches per year. Supplemental water is needed to grow crops or a landscaped yard. Irrigation rights on smaller parcels are usually part of a larger water right and are generally shared with neighboring smaller parcels. In many cases, there are irrigation districts that cover a larger area and oversee the water rights in that district. There is a yearly charge for the delivery of water. That assessment covers the maintenance of the canals and ditches in that district. Fees vary from district to district. Many times in a neighborhood with small parcels, there will be an association with a water master. For more detailed information, visit http://seo.state.wy.us/PDF/living_small_acreage.pdf. Water is gold in Wyoming. From the fertile ground, lush crops can be produced.

undefinedundefinedIf you are looking at land for sale that does not have irrigation or just looking for a home site, you most likely will be drilling a well. This is done by obtaining a permit from the State Engineer’s office. The cost is $50 for the application. When the well is complete and hooked up to a power source, a Completion Statement is filled out and sent into the State Engineer’s office. They will then adjudicate the water right to that property and assign a number. A domestic well allows for watering of one acre around the home site.

 For additional information on water rights in the State of Wyoming, contact the State Engineer’s Office, http://seo.state.wy.us/index.aspx

Local Wildlife

08 March, 2011

I was sitting in our great room enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon by the fire when the neighbors decided to drop by. Antelope are commonly seen in Wyoming. They are migratory and are seen in different areas different times of the year. I have often seen them in my pasture where they will stop and look at me through the window. Unfortuantely, as soon as I move to get the camera, so do they.


Wyoming is the only state with more antelope than people. They are an amazing animal that can reach speeds of 60 mph. The antelope of North American are called Pronghorns, but more commonly referred to as just antelope. During the winter they form mixed sex herds. In spring, males and females will seperate with young males and females forming seperate groups and adult males living solitarily.

Wildlife viewing here in northwestern Wyoming is spectacular, especially when you can look at them out your front window.