The State of Montana owns the waters within the state on behalf of its citizens. Citizens do not own the water but can possess a legal right to use the water within state guidelines. By law, a recorded water right is required for the majority of water uses to be valid, legal, and defensible against other water users. A water right protects the use of that water from other uses later in time, from unrecorded, illegal uses, or from others who exceed their rights.


Important Note: The process and forms for permit and change applications (600 and 606 Forms) changed on January 1. Learn more here, or browse the Resources tab on the Forms & Resources page for manuals and other guidance. 

Water Resources Regional Offices

Eight Water Resources Regional Offices are located around the state to assist with water right applications and questions. Personnel at each office can inform you of specific water right considerations in your area. 

Find Your Regional Office

Water Right Forms

Application status and public notice tools.

If you've submitted a water right application, click Application Status to track its progress online. Use the Water Rights Notification Tool (WRNT) to learn when new and ongoing permit and change applications reach the milestones most important for public participation.

Basin closures and controlled groundwater areas.

Montana has authority to control or close river basins and groundwater aquifers to certain types of water appropriations because of water availability problems, water contamination problems, and a concern for protecting existing water rights. There are five different types of closures. Water right permit applications in basin closure areas are subject to statutes passed by the 2007 Legislature. The statutes enacted under House Bill 831 (HB 831) were effective on May 3, 2007. HB 831 provides a means to apply for surface and ground water use in basin closure areas.

Survey Books and Field Notes

The Montana Water Resources Survey and Field Notes are an excellent resource for various state and federal agencies, water users and the public. As the very nature of the prior appropriation doctrine is based on historical use, these surveys become an invaluable tool used in today’s efforts to adjudicate Montana’s water rights.

Survey Books

Field Notes