Water Law


Water is at the heart of agriculture. Without water, crops and livestock would not be able to survive. Water used in agricultural production can come from surface waters, such as rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds, or from groundwater, such as an aquifer. The allocation of this important resource is left up to each state, with very little federal intervention. Each state has its own regulatory system to allocate both the surface waters and the groundwater in the state.    Read the full overview

Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Federal Statutes

Desert Lands Act of 1877, 43 U.S.C. §§ 321 – 339
Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 791a – 823d
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (a/k/a Clean Water Act), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 – 1387
Flood Control Acts, 33 U.S.C. §§ 701 – 709b
McCarran Amendment, 43 U.S.C. § 666
Mining Act of 1866, 30 U.S.C. §§ 21 – 54
Reclamation Act of 1902, 43 U.S.C. §§ 371 – 390h-20
Reclamation Reform Act of 1982, 43 U.S.C. §§ 390aa – 390zz-1
Safe Drinking Water Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 300f – 300j-26
Water Resources Development Acts, 33 U.S.C. §§ 2201 – 2339
Water Resources Research Act of 1984, 42 U.S.C. §§ 10301 – 10309

State Constitutions

Alaska Const. art. VIII, § 13
Arizona Const. art. XVII, §§ 1-2
California Const art. X, §§ 1-7
Colorado Const. art. XVI, §§ 5-8
Idaho Const. art. XV, §§ 1-7
Montana Const. art. IX, § 3
Nebraska Const. art. XV, §§ 4-7
New Mexico Const. art. XVI, §§ 1-6
Wyoming Const. art. VIII, §§ 1-5

Compilation of States’ Water Law Statutes


Bureau of Reclamation Regulations, 43 C.F.R. Parts 402-999
Federal Regulations Open for Comment

Case Law

Case Law Index for Water Law

Center Research Publications

State Listings: Water Law Offices (Goeringer and Boyd, 2009)

How the Concept of Navigability May Determine the Rights of Landowners Along Streams (Looney, 2002)

Congressional Research Service Reports

CRS Subject(s):

Environmental Issues
Water Resources
Public Lands

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Water Law:

Environmental Issues
Land Use Regulation
Pesticides, Herbicides, Insecticides, Fungicides, Fertilizers
Public Lands
Water Rights: Agriculturally Related

Reference Resources

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Irrigation and Water Use
Water and Wetland Resources: AREI, 2006 Edition

National Agriculture Library

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center- Water Conservation
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center — Water Saving Irrigation Techniques
Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) Bibliographies
Water Quality Information Center

National Resource Conservation Service

Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP)
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Irrigation Page
National Water & Climate Center
National Water Management Center
Snow Survey & Water Supply Forecasting Programs
Water Quality
Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention
Wetlands Reserve Program

Rural Development

Water and Environmental Programs

Department of Energy


Department of the Interior

Bureau of Land Management: Western Water Law (2001) (2001)
Bureau of Reclamation (USBR)
Colorado River Management Agreement
National Atlas: Water Use in the United States

USBR Reclamation Manual

Water Conservation Field Services Program

Environmental Protection Agency

Waters by Type
Terms of Environment Glossary

U.S. Geological Society

Water Resources of the U.S.

International Resources

International Boundary & Water Commission
Water Law and Standards (United Nations)


Surface and Groundwater Regulation (Hill & Aldredge, 2016)

Marketing Groundwater Rights (McCarthy, 2016)

Additional Resources

Water Law in Arkansas (Arkansas Natural Resources Commission)

Basic Montana Water Law (Doney & Loble)

Wisconsin Water Law (Kent & Dubiak)

Wyoming Water Law – A Summary (State Engineer)

Compilation of Water Organizations (Goeringer & Boyd)