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Utah Division of Water Rights Announces New Tool to Track Status of Change Applications

Former Counsel
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by Graham J. Gilbert

On June 22, 2020, the Utah Division of Water Rights (also referred to as the State Engineer’s Office) released a new tool to assist with tracking permanent water right change applications.  Change applications propose modifications to existing water rights.  For instance, a change application may modify a water right’s point of diversion, place of use, and/or manner of use.  After an applicant files a change application, the Division publishes notice, “interested” people may protest, a hearing may be held, the Division considers the application and any protests, and the State Engineer issues an order approving or denying the change application.

There is no fixed timeline for the State Engineer to issue an order.  The State Engineer generally tries to issue an order within 6 months of the date a change application is filed.  However, this timeline may be extended as a result of protests, hearings, litigation, a pending General Adjudication, or other circumstances.  In other words, there is an undefined time period between the close of protests (or a hearing) and the issuance of an order.  During this time, applicants often wonder when they will receive the order for their change application.  Similarly, attorneys and engineers often field questions from clients about the status of their change application.  In the past, these questions were generally answered by calling the Regional Engineer overseeing the change application and requesting a status update.

The Division’s new “Change Application Tracker” will help applicants, attorneys, and engineers to monitor the status of pending change applications.  The Change Application Tracker is available here.  It lists change applications that the State Engineer has not yet acted on (or that she has recently acted on), and it includes key information about those applications, including the application number, date filed, last day to file protests, whether protests were filed, and whether a hearing was requested and held.  In addition, the Change Application Tracker lists the State Engineer’s progress in reviewing an application (reported as a “percent complete”), and it includes comments regarding the change application’s status.  The Change Application Tracker also allows users to filter data based on region, year filed, whether the change application was protested, and whether a hearing was held.

The Change Application Tracker provides a useful way to monitor progress of change applications that you are following, either as an applicant or a protestant.  It complements existing tools that the Division offers to monitor water rights.  For instance, the Division maintains several lists, including a list of new filings, new approvals, and water rights with proof due.  These lists may be found here.