Document Type


Publication Date

January 1983


The increasing public interest in naturally flowing streams has fostered efforts to obtain their protection under existing state water laws. In this study, the water laws of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming were examined and compared 1) with each other, and 2) against a set of aleitn criteria, to assess shortcomings in accommodating instream flow protections. It was determined that the appropriation system has the essential features of and ambodies legal principles that should allow the accommodation of instream flow values but, at this time, purchase of existing rights or the exercise of governmental reservation/withdrawal/appropriation authorities seem to be the primary options. Legislative, judicial, and adminsitrative strategies for protecting instream flows apart from the normal appropriation process were reviewed. Certain legislative and administrative strategies hold premise as supplementary to the standard appropriation procedure. Likewise, private sector strategies utilizing contracts, easements, purchase of development rights, etc., need to be more thoroughly considered. Where instream flow protections do not justify preemptive rights and strategies, and if hydrologic imperatives are properly observed, the state administered appropriation systems can accommodate the instream flow needs. However, the need for better technical information for establishing benficial need for the many instream values, and for use in projecting the biologic-hydrologic consequences of particular instream flow regimes remains a stumbling block to the accommodation process.