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Federal “Non-Reserved” Water Rights


The following memorandum of law deals with the scope of the federal government’s rights to unappropriated water flowing across federally owned lands in the western states. It discusses the background and development of the federal “non-reserved” water rights theory, and concludes that that theory does not provide an appropriate legal basis for a broad assertion of water rights by federal agencies without regard to state laws. It then sets forth the legal standards and considerations that are applicable to an analysis of federal water rights in connection with the management of particular federal lands under specific statutes authorizing federal land management.

Updated July 9, 2014