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. 
The Montana Water Use Act of 1973 established a permit system for new uses of water. Anyone planning a new or expanded development for a beneficial use of water from surface water or groundwater after June 30, 1973, must obtain a Beneficial Water Use Permit (Form 600) to appropriate water or file a Notice of Completion of Ground Water Development (Form 602) to get a Certificate of Water Right. Click here to see DNRC's Water Right FormsIf you have any questions about the water right application process, please contact your Regional Office.


Do I need a water right?

By law, an active water right is required for most uses of water to be valid, legal, and defensible. A water right protects the use of your water from other uses that began later in time, illegal uses, or from others who exceed their rights.



Beneficial Use

Beneficial uses of water include domestic, stock, irrigation, lawn and garden, mining, municipal, industrial, commercial, agricultural spraying, fisheries, wildlife, recreation, power generation, instream flow for fisheries, and geothermal heating and cooling. A person may use water without prior approval from DNRC to protect lives or property in a temporary emergency, such as in the case of a fire.


Do I already have a water right?

To determine if you already have a water right, use the DNRC Water Right Query System. Be sure to search for water rights appurtenant to property you own and not only water rights for which you are the listed owner. It may be the case that you need to update the ownership on an existing water right. If you have any questions or are having trouble finding your water right, please contact your Water Resources Regional Office.

Water Right Query System



Types of water rights

A Beneficial Water Use Permit is required for all new or expanded uses of surface water and groundwater unless the use falls under an exception to permitting requirements. Relevant documents, forms, and guides are available online. To determine the specific permit or water right you need, it is highly recommended that you contact the Water Resources Regional Office serving your county.

Water Right Forms


Exceptions to permitting requirements

Permits may not be required for your use of water depending on a variety of factors. Exceptions can be complicated and it is highly recommended that you contact your Regional Office to discuss your water use.

Exceptions to Permitting

Closed basins

Some basins and subbasins in Montana are closed to new appropriations because they are deemed to be highly appropriated. There are some exceptions to these closures. Please see the Basin Closures page for more information.

Basin Closures