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
Ground Water Rule, Drinking Water Requirements for State and Public Water Systems
Underground Injection Control Regulations and Safe Drinking Water Act Provisions, Underground Injection Control (IUC)
Protect Sources of Drinking Water, Source Water Protection
Clean Water Act, summary
Clean Water Act Compliance Monitoring, Compliance
Impaired Waters and TMDLs: Statutes and Regulations, Impaired Waters and TMDLs
Guidance for 1994 Section 303(d) Lists, Impaired Waters and TMDLs
Integrated Reporting Guidance, Impaired Waters and TMDLs
Water Quality Standards: Regulations and Resources, Surface Water: Lakes, Rivers, and Streams
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
NPDES Program Areas
319 Grant Program for States and Territories, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
NPDES Program Management and Oversight, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System

NPDES Stormwater Program, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
Stormwater Discharges From Industrial Activities, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
Sanitary Sewer Overflow, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
Combined Sewer Overflows, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
National Menu of Best Management Practices For Stormwater, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System

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

Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017

Subjects- published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:

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 and Agriculture Information Center (WAIC)

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)
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

Regulatory Information by Topic: Water

Drinking Water
Ground Water
Hydraulic Fracturing
Impaired Waters
Mountaintop Mining
Oceans and Coastal Waters
Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia
Surface Water: Lakes, Rivers, and Streams

Animal Feeding Operations

Terms of Environment Glossary

U.S. Geological Society

Water Resources of the U.S.

Water Resources Glossaries
Water Basics Glossary
Hydrologic Definitions
Water Science-Glossary of Terms
National Water Quality Assessment Glossary
Glossary of Water-Quality Monitoring Terms
Water Resources Data – Definition of Terms
Glossary of water-use terminolog
Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 1990
A-Z Index of Hydrologic Terms

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

Wyoming Water Law – A Summary (State Engineer)

Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy

Water Law in Arkansas (Arkansas Natural Resources Commission)

Water Rights in Montana (Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, 2014)

Wisconsin Water Law (Kent & Dubiak)

Wyoming Water Law – A Summary (State Engineer)

Compilation of Water Organizations (Goeringer & Boyd)