Currently, water court proceedings governing an application to change the beneficial use of an agricultural water right require the applicant to designate a specific beneficial use identified at the time of the application. The bill authorizes an owner of an agricultural water right to seek a change-in-use decree in water court to allow the transfer of up to 50% of the water subject to the water right to any beneficial use for renewable one-year periods, without designating the specific beneficial use, if the owner has obtained substitute water supply plan approval and the following conditions are met:
- In accordance with rules established by the state engineer, the state engineer must approve a one-year lease, loan, or exchange transferring a portion of the water subject to the water right;
- The owner of the water right may transfer up to 50% of the historical consumptive use portion of the water right;
- The remaining portion of the water subject to the water right must continue to be used for agricultural purposes;
- The water right must be protected by the owner's participation in a conservation program or water banking program or establishment of a conservation easement;
- Ownership must remain with the owner who applied for the change-in-use decree;
- The owner shall not transfer water subject to the water right outside of the water division with jurisdiction over the location of historical consumptive use; and
- The transferable portion of the water subject to the water right must be delivered to a point of diversion that is subject to an existing water court decree.