The place of diversion, place of use, purpose of use, or the place of storage of a water right may be changed so long as the change meets certain criteria as described below. A water right change is not required in all scenarios. After July 1, 1973, any person wishing to make a change in use of the water right must file an application to change their water right (Form 606) to the DNRC for approval of that change. You do not need to submit a Change Application to change your address on your water right. Click here to change your address.
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. 

Approving a Water Right Change

DNRC shall grant a proposed change if it meets the following statutory criteria for authorization and issuance:

  • Will not hurt other water rights
  • The means of diversion, construction, and operation of the appropriation works are adequate
  • The use is a beneficial use
  • The applicant has permission to use the place of use

The process of changing an existing water right takes time. Water right owners interested in changing their water right(s) or learning more about the water right change process in general should contact their Water Resources Regional Office to schedule a scoping meeting prior to requesting a Preapplication Meeting or submitting their completed Application to Change a Water Right form and required addenda.

Regional Offices

DNRC may approve the change in whole, in part, or approve it subject to conditions where necessary to meet the four statutory criteria. If the proposed change does not meet those four criteria, then the proposed change is not approved and the application for change is denied. A special note: Montana Code Annotated (MCA) Section 85-2-407 provides for an abbreviated process for changing a water right temporarily in certain situations. MCA 85-2-408 provides a procedure to temporarily change a water right to a purpose of instream flow, subject to certain limitations.

An applicant must be able to prove that the proposed new use of their water right will not require or consume more water than what they used historically. While not a part of the criteria for issuance of a water right change application, an applicant is required to prove the ‘historic use’ of a water right being changed in order to prove they are not expanding their use of water. ‘Historical use’ for Statements of Claim refers to the extent the water right was used prior to July 1, 1973. For Beneficial Water Use Permits, ‘historical use’ refers to the extent the water right was used as of the date the perfected use of that water right was verified by the Department.   Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM) 36.12.1901 through 36.12.1904 encompass the New Appropriations Administrative Rules that a water right change applicant must follow when submitting their change application to the DNRC.


Water Right Change Manual

While not a one-stop-shop, the Water Right Change Manual is a regularly updated document that provides a comprehensive summary of the different aspects of Department application review and processing. (Note that printing out the Water Right Change Manual is not recommended due to its regular updates and large file size!)