General Questions

Does the State Engineer's Office handle things like highways, bridges, or building designs?

No. The SEO only handles things related to water and water rights, although we do have professional engineers involved in dam safety evaluations.

Can the State engineer's Office recommend a consulting engineer or surveyor that can do my water right work for me?

We keep a list of consulting engineers and surveyors who offer these services, but as a public entity cannot recommend individual practitioners. You can also contact ACEC of Wyoming, or the Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors, for a list of registrants.

Does the SEO still perform water rights searches for the public?

Issue date: May 23, 2002

The State Engineers Office is announcing that, as a result of internal workload reprioritization, it will be cutting back on the resources available to respond to water right search requests received from the public, effective September 1, 2002.

According to State Engineer Pat Tyrrell, the cutback is a reflection of the mounting permitting duties his office faces, and the permit application backlog that is the highest his agency has ever seen. Right now, up to half of the staff time in the Surface Water Division is devoted to fulfilling incoming search requests. Searches, unfortunately, are swallowing up staff time in huge chunks. And while there are other people with expertise available to research water rights, there is only one agency that is charged with reviewing and issuing permits and evaluating resource questions, and thats us, Tyrrell explained. Water right searches are typically requested for land sales transactions, especially for irrigated land. Oftentimes, a water right search for a single property has been requested multiple times, because the results of the initial search are either lost or simply not distributed by the original requesting party. Rush requests are also a concern, because agency staff has historically dropped what they were doing to satisfy such requests. At any one time, according to Tyrrell, the agency has the equivalent of four to six full-time employees devoted to this work.

The State Engineers Office has seen an increase of almost 50 percent in search requests in the last biennium. Responding to these requests has pushed permit applications onto a growing backlog that now numbers almost 2,000 permits in the agencys Surface Water Division, some that have waited three years or more for processing. Thats unacceptable, Tyrrell said. While coal bed methane applications also contribute to the backlog, recent dramatic increases in subdivision applications and a general shift to rural lifestyles and trophy homes are equally responsible. Searches are something we are not statutorily required to do, but every State Engineer and his staff has, Tyrrell stated, noting that his agency will probably never totally get out of the water right research business. We need to do first things first, and thats our statutory permitting obligation. Tyrrell said his agency understands this will be uncomfortable at first for realtors, attorneys, bankers, appraisers, and county officials who need the information for transactions. However, Tyrrell says, in the long run, when we can get search capabilities available over the web, and people get more comfortable doing their own, it will help us keep agency spending directed where it should be to our permitting and regulatory obligations.

Although the State Engineers Office will cut back on its time spent performing water rights searches, entities requiring water rights searches have other options to obtain this information. First, professionals are available to do such searches for a fee. These professionals can be identified and contacted, for example, through professional engineering and surveying organizations or other such groups. Secondly, the agency is stepping up its work to provide groundwater rights on CD, although surface water rights are less accessible at the moment. The State Engineers Office will soon offer periodic training for those who prefer to learn to do their own searches. Tyrrell added, Theres nothing magic about a search being done by our office versus one done by an individual, although there is a learning process when it comes to understanding the databases or interpreting the results. Consultants have looked through our records and provided water rights analyses for clients for decades. This approach will simply become more common. Tyrrell indicated that the Cheyenne office, and possibly field offices in the future, would have computer terminals available for public searches on the local network.

Until September 1, 2002, the State Engineers Office will continue to do searches with the manpower currently dedicated to that work. After September 1, 2002, the search requests will be processed as received, with no more than 20 percent of staff time devoted to this work, and turnaround times will not be guaranteed. This will hopefully result in a more structured approach to search requests, and a reduction in last-minute rush requests. Those who require search results faster than State Engineer staff can accomplish them will have to hire a search professional or come in themselves. Tyrrell concluded, This will be a little bumpy at first, and I hope folks will bear with us as we automate the process more. It is really a resource issue, but I think the education it will afford the public will be worth it in the long run.

Tyrrell indicated also that because he anticipates more of the public arriving at the State Engineers Office in Cheyenne, a sign-in sheet would soon be required to keep track of the increased visitation and for document control purposes.

For more information, the State Engineers Office can be contacted at (307) 777-6688 (ground water information), 777-6475 (surface water information), or 777-6166 (subdivision information).

Are coordinates necessary for my permit?

Issue date: February 10, 2006

The State Engineer's Office continues to move forward with the design and implementation of the agency's IT Initiative. This effort will convert the agency's business processes to an electronic (digital) system which will allow for the submittal and processing of water right applications in an electronic medium. The submission of applications and petitions in paper form will continue but upon receipt by the agency, will be immediately scanned into the new workflow management system. All water rights records of the agency, both new and existing, will be stored in electronic form utilizing a state of the art document management system. This will allow citizens to perform water rights searches in their homes or offices via the internet. The ultimate goal of the IT Initiative is to display and manage the water rights of the State in a Geographic Information System (GIS). These systems are dependent on being able to accurately locate water right features (wells, dams, diversion structures). As such, State Engineer Patrick Tyrrell has issued a new policy requiring the use of coordinates on new water right applications and petitions. The coordinates can be provided in one of three systems, Latitude/Longitude, Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM), and State Plane Coordinates. The policy is summarized as follows:
  • Prior to issuing new surface water permits, the applicant will be required to provide coordinates on all points of diversion and dams (includes stock dams) 
  • All new Statements of Completion (UW-6) require coordinates for wells and springs 
  • The Board of Control requires coordinates for key features on all maps submitted to the board
The effective date of the new policy is April 1, 2006. Copies of the entire policy may be obtained from the State Engineer's Office.


Surface Water Questions


My great-grandfather built this ditch back around 1903. What do you mean I don't have a water right?

With the exception of pre-Statehood water rights (Territorial Appropriations), you must obtain a permit from the State Engineer PRIOR TO commencement of construction of any project proposing to appropriate water for a beneficial use.

My banker told me that the reservoir on the property I am buying belongs to me and I want to be sure you put it in my name.

It depends. For a stock reservoir (in-place use), the current land owner may claim ownership of the reservoir using an Affidavit (sworn statement). The water stored in an irrigation reservoir (Primary Permit) WITH a Secondary Permit is controlled by the owner of the points of use identified in the Secondary Permit. For a reservoir WITHOUT a Secondary Permit, we consider the reservoir owner to be that shown by the records in our office. Any reservoir may be assigned to a new owner by executing an Assignment of Permit OR by inclusion of the reservoir (by name and Permit Number) in the Warranty Deed or Certificate of Ownership that transfers ownership of a piece of property.

My banker told me that I must have all the water rights put in my name.

A direct flow water right attaches to the point of use and there is no need to "put it in your name". Many times, a piece of irrigated property may be split into numerous ownerships and the BOC would not consider putting a single owner onto a Certificate with many "owners".

The State Engineer issued me this ditch permit so now I can enter your property to install my head gate and cut my ditch.

Not without the permission of the owner. The issuance of a permit DOES NOT constitute the granting of a right-of-way.

I filed my application so now I can build my reservoir.

No. An application DOES NOT equal a permit.

I filed my application before my neighbor but he received his permit first. Now he has the senior water right.

No, he doesn't. The priority date of a permit is established when the application is RECEIVED AND FILED FOR RECORD, regardless of how long it takes to issue the permit.

I am looking at purchasing a piece of property that is being irrigated. What is the water right attaching to the property?" A search of our records revealed no water right. How can that be?

Under Wyoming Water Law, water stored in an irrigation reservoir may be used anywhere in the State. There is a good chance that the seller is irrigating the property in preparation of selling it but will probably discontinue irrigation once the sale is final. Buyer beware!

There is a ditch that crosses a piece of property that I just purchased. Since it is on my property, I certainly must have the right to use the ditch.

Not necessarily. Unless your lands are covered by a water right carried by the ditch, you have no claim to the water or the ditch.

There is a ditch that crosses a piece of property that I just purchased. I certainly have the right to fill in the ditch since it crosses my property right where I want to build my new barn.

No. "One who destroys a private irrigating ditch is liable for the difference in the value of the land belonging to the owner without the ditch and with it." Sutherland on Damages (4th ed. Vol. 4, pg. 3760).

There is a ditch that crosses a piece of property that I just purchased. I certainly have the right to enjoy the aesthetics provided by the ditch and now I want to build a bridge across the ditch to enhance the beauty and functionality of my property.

The ditch owner has the right to maintain his ditch and this includes a "reasonable" distance on each side of the ditch to run equipment. Unless you agree to maintain the ditch on your property, any structures could be destroyed by his ditch-cleaning equipment.

There is a ditch that crosses a piece of property that I just purchased. My neighbor now wants to enter MY property and clean out the ditch. I certainly can stop him, can't I?

No. A 1965 Wyoming Attorney General addressed this question in quoting from Weil in "Water Rights in the Western States" when he said: "As in the case of any easement, the ditch owner as the dominant, has the duty of keeping the ditch in repair, and not the landowner. Correspondingly, he has the right of entry upon the servient estate to make repairs and to clean out the ditches, and if the landowner interferes, injunction lies.

There is a stream that crosses a piece of property that I just purchased. I certainly have the right to use that water since it is on my property.

Not necessarily. Wyoming does not recognize riparian rights. Wyoming is a Prior Appropriation Doctrine state and a permit is required in order to divert water. There is a provision in the law that provides for the use of water for instream stock use.

My neighbor and I have irrigation rights under the same permit. I think that my neighbor is taking more water than he is entitled to and I am out of water. I'll call the Water Commissioner and he'll set my neighbor straight.

Not necessarily. Our jurisdiction ends at the headgate and does not extend down the ditch. We may be asked to help mediate a dispute but the final say may be a civil matter.

I have an old ditch that crosses the neighbor's property. A new owner has moved in next door and wants to build a house near the ditch and, without telling me, he has lined the ditch with concrete so it won't flood his basement. I just received the bill for the ditch-lining job and he expects me to pay it.

A co-owner of a ditch should never undertake maintenance expenses without first consulting the other owners of the ditch. Unless it can be shown that all co-owners will benefit from the improvement, it may be difficult to recover the full cost.

Back in 1952, my dad moved the headgate of our ditch upstream to a better site where it won't wash out every spring during high runoff. The point of diversion used to be on our property but now is on the BLM. The BLM just found this out and says our water right isn't valid because we didn't get permission from the State Engineer's Office or the BLM and now they said we have to move our headgate off the BLM.

This one is a little tricky. As for trespassing on BLM property, this is a Right-of-Way issue and not our fight. As for the water right issue, the key is the date that the change was made. Prior to 1965, there was no statute requiring that a change in point of diversion be recorded with the State Engineer or Board of Control. If the amended water right were to call for priority regulation, the Superintendent may choose to not honor the call until the record is corrected to reflect the on-the-ground situation or the headgate is moved back to the location of record.


Ground Water Questions

Do I need a Permit before I can drill my well?

Yes, by law your driller must have an approved permit in his possession during the construction of your well.

How can I tell if my well is permitted?

Perform a Water Rights Database Search using our website. You'll need the legal description for your property - Township, Range, Section and Quarter/Quarter of the section. 

What is a legal description? (And no your address isn't enough!)

A legal description is a description of property used in legal documents, in contrast to a street address by which property is commonly known. The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is a way of subdividing and describing land in the United States, and is used to describe well locations. 

The PLSS employs a grid system based on township, range and section numbers. Here's an example of a PLSS legal description:
  • NE 1/4, SW 1/4, Section 24, Township 28 North, Range 97 West 
  • Or shown as NE ¼ SW ¼, S24, T28N, R97W 
You can find your legal description information: 
  • On your property tax bill or property deed. 
  • On plat maps (available by contacting your county clerk or from mapping companies). 
  • On United States Geological Survey topographic maps (available by calling the USGS). 
  • By contacting the Offices of your County Assessor, Clerk or Planner. 

Can you help me find a driller?

Our office cannot recommend a driller for you. However, we try to keep an updated driller list on our website for public use.

What if my existing well fails? And how do I relocate and/or deepen an existing well without obtaining a new permit?

If it is an unadjudicated domestic and/or stock well please visit here. 

If your water right is adjudicated or will need to be adjudicated in the future please visit here

The process of adjudication finalizes a water right. It fixes the amount of the appropriation and the point(s) or area(s) of use. The adjudication procedure can be found in our Rules & Regs.

How do I permit an existing well?

If you would like to permit an existing well for domestic and/or stock CLICK HERE. 

If you would like to permit an existing well for any other use CLICK HERE.

 How do I assign an existing permit to indicate that I am the current water right holder?

In the State of Wyoming, water rights are property rights that transfer with the sale of the property they are attached to. If it is essential that the records indicate you as the current permittee, you must submit proof that you own the land where the water right attaches. Proof can be submitted in the form of a warranty deed, quitclaim deed, etc.

How long does it take to obtain an approval?

Permit: It depends on the use for which you are applying. Domestic and/or stock use permits typically take 1 to 2 weeks, while more complicated permits can take several months. 

Statement of Completion: We currently have a 6 month to 1 year back log of these documents awaiting review. 

Extension Request: About three or four months. 

Relocate/Deepening Request: Approximately two to four weeks.

What is a Water Right?

All water within the State of Wyoming is the property of the State of Wyoming. Water rights granted by the State of Wyoming allow use of certain portions of the waters of the state to be used for specific purposes and are administered by their priority dates.

How deep do I need to drill my well?

You can research data on nearby permitted wells using our website to obtain an estimate. In instances where there are no permitted wells nearby, you may need to solicit the services of a geological consultant to assist you in designing your well. Your driller may be able to estimate the depth based on his experience and local conditions.

When is a spring considered ground water and when is it surface water?

In order for a spring to be permitted through the Ground Water Division, the following criteria must be met:
  • The total yield from the spring, whether natural or artificial, must be 25 gallons per minute or less. 
  • The proposed use of the spring must be stock and/or domestic (as defined by the Ground Water Division). 
  • There must be some form of artificial, man-made, and abandonable development made to the spring. 
  • The appropriator must capture water originating from the spring when is it readily identifiable as ground water. Once the spring water is flowing naturally across the ground surface, it is no longer ground water but is considered surface water.
If any of the above conditions are not met, the spring must be permitted through the Surface Water Division.

How far from my property line and sewer should my well be?

The State Engineer's Office' Rules and Regulations require a minimum distance of 10 feet between the location of a well and any property line. For setback distances from sewers, septic tanks, etc. please read page 10 of our Water Well Minimum Construction Standards.

For other requirements contact the Water Quality Division of the Department of Environmental Quality (307) 777-7781.

How many acres must I own to drill a well?

There are no statewide requirements, but the setback distances outlined in the Water Well Minimum Construction Standards must be adhered to. Local ordinances may require a minimum acreage amount for the construction of a well. Please contact your local government prior to commencing construction of the well.

What are the requirements for providing GPS coordinates for my well location?

For more information, CLICK HERE.

How do I complete the Statement of Completion (U.W.6) and/or Beneficial Use Form (U.W.8)?

The Statement of Completion form describes how your well was constructed. It also includes the pump information and the amount of water your well is producing. 

The Beneficial Use form indicates the date that the water was first used for its permitted purpose. It is typically submitted to our office along with the Map to Accompany Proof of Appropriation and Beneficial Use of Ground Water. 

Why do I need to submit a map or have my water right adjudicated?

Adjudication is the formal process of proving beneficial use of a water right and is required for nearly every ground water right which is not strictly limited to domestic and/or stock watering uses or temporary in nature. 

For a ground water right, the adjudication process consists of three parts. Part I is the submission of the Proof of Appropriation and Beneficial Use of Ground Water Part I (U.W. 8) form. Part II is the submission of a map prepared by a Professional Land Surveyor or Professional Engineer licensed to practice in the State of Wyoming and will show the locations of the well, irrigated lands, and points of use of water, among other things.

Part III is a document created after an on site inspection of the facilities to determine compliance with the terms of the water right. The document will list the findings of the inspection, must be approved by the appropriator, and is ultimately forwarded to the Wyoming State Board of Control who will adjudicate the water right.

Why do I have to get my Statement of Completion (U.W.6) and/or Beneficial Use Form (U.W.8) notarized?

When one of the forms listed above is submitted to our office after the date the permit has expired, the forms must be notarized attesting to the fact that the well was completed and/or beneficial use was established prior to the permit's expiration.

When is my well considered complete?

The SEO does not consider a typical well complete until after a pump is installed. A spring or flowing well is considered complete when the water is first used.

Can I write one check when I submit multiple applications?

Yes, please do.

Can you rush my application? The driller is waiting in my front yard!

No, sorry. Applications get processed in the order that they are received in our office. In almost all cases, permits can be obtained months in advance of the need to drill.

What is your water right research policy?

Requests for water rights searches are not a priority for our office. If the project needs to be completed in a timely manner, you can use our online database to research our records or hire a water rights consultant.

How will I know when my application has been approved?

You or your agent will receive a letter stating that your application has been approved. Submittal of an application for permit does not mean your permit has been reviewed and approved.

Do I need a permit for a monitoring well?

No, as of March 12. 2013, the State Engineer's Office - Ground Water Division no longer requires monitoring wells to be permitted through the Division.  In general, monitoring wells are used to measure water levels and/or collect water samples for analytical purposes.  Monitoring wells are not used for production of water for beneficial use.

Must I submit a copy of our water quality test results on our well?

We do not require the water quality results; however, we encourage you to submit them with your U.W.6 form, and they will be made a part of the permanent record of your permit.

Is it a good idea to get a shared well agreement?

If you are planning on sharing a well it is always a good idea to have all parties' rights and responsibilities clearly listed. The SEO does not recommend sharing wells.

What is an aquifer?

AQUIFER - Any underground geological structure or formation having boundaries that may be ascertained or reasonably inferred, in which water stands, flows or percolates.

If I put in a new pump do I have to contact your office?

No, unless you are producing more water than was originally permitted.

How do you plug a well?

Please see: Section 5, Chapter 6 of our Water Well Minimum Construction Standards

If you're well is classified as a public water supply system or was drilled under WDEQ oversight contact the Water Quality Division of the Department of Environmental Quality (307) 777-7781 for guidelines.

Who should I contact if the information in your database is incorrect?

Please contact our office at (307) 777-6163.

Do I need a Permit before I can drill my well?

Yes, by law your driller must have an approved permit in his possession during the construction of your well.

Who can sign water right forms as agent?

Anyone the applicant authorizes to do so. However, that person will then receive all future correspondence from the SEO.

What is a geothermal well?

A geothermal well produces ground water which has a temperature appreciably higher than that of the local average annual air temperature.

How can petroleum companies transfer wells to land owners?

The preferred approach is to have the company cancel their water rights and then have the land owner re-file on the existing well for the use of water that they contemplate. In very few cases does transfer of the ownership of a well bore result in the transfer of ownership of a water right, unless the point of use under the water right is within the well bore.

Does your office keep confidentiality?

No, we are a public office; therefore, all our records are open to the public for viewing.

How do I pick a well name?

You can pick anything you'd like that isn't vulgar or offensive. Usually people use their last names or subdivision lot numbers.

How can I make a well name change request?

Submit a letter to our office listing the permit number and the requested name change or when submitting the Statement of Completion form.

Whose responsibility is it to turn in the Statement of Completion form (U.W.6)?

It is ultimately the responsibility of the applicant to submit all of the paper work, although you may need help from your driller to properly complete the forms.

I have a well on my property. Am I the only person who can use the water from the well?

Not necessarily. Water rights attach to where they are used and in many cases there is no authorized use at the well site. There may be others who have a right to the use of the water from the well on lands that they own. However, they also need permission from the owner of the property to legally access the well. A detailed analysis of the water right associated with this well should reveal the answer to this question.

Can I apply for a permit for a well that is not located on my property?

Yes - However, approval of a permit to appropriate water from the well does not grant any right-of-way or easement to the well. Permission from the owner of the property on which the well is located will need to be secured for access to the well if the water right is to be exercised.

Does the SEO have an involvement in the Subdivision process?

Discussion of proposed subdivision water supply reviews is located on the Ground Water Division page.


Board of Control


How do I find out the date, time and location for the next Board Meeting? 
  • Check the calendar available on this site 
  • Call our office @ 307-777-6178 
  • The Board of Control holds regular quarterly meetings, the dates being set by the Board; generally, they are held: 
    • The first week in February 
    • The second week of May 
    • The third week of August 
    • The last week of November, except when it conflicts with Thanksgiving. 

What is adjudication?


Adjudication of a water right is simply a determination by the Board of Control that water has been and is being beneficially applied to the land to the extent and by the means set in the permit. It finalizes the priority date, point of diversion location, the area(s) or point(s) of use, use(s) and rate (cfs or gpm). Once a water right is adjudicated, a Certificate of Appropriation or Construction (reservoirs only) is issued and filed in the county clerk’s office where the appropriation is located.


What is a water right?

A water right is a right to use the water of the state, when such use has been acquired by the beneficial application of water under the laws of the state. Water being always the property of the state.


What is a Certificate of Appropriation or Construction?

The official document which provides all pertinent adjudication information. Certificates shall be transmitted to the county clerk of the county in which the appropriation shall have been made and it shall be the duty of the county clerk upon receipt of the recording fee required by W.S. 18-3-402 to record the same in a book especially prepared and kept for that purpose, and thereupon immediately transmit the same to the respective appropriators.

Copies of the Certificates are maintained as permanent records in the Board of Control.


What is a water rights petition?

A notarized legal document which is submitted to the Board of Control to amend or change an adjudicated water right; for all changes of use; and to relocate an unadjudicated ground water right, if the water has been put to beneficial use.


Where can a find a form for submitting a petition?

Forms are not available for submitting petitions as each one is unique. Sample petitions are available on this site. You can also find them at: Engineer, State; Board of Control – Water Administration; Current Rules and Regulations; Ch. 0 – Appendix A – Sample Petitions and Forms (http://soswy.state.wy.us/Rules/default.aspx).


How do I file a petition?

All required documentation must be submitted to the Board of Control and accompanied be the required fees. Go to Engineer, State; Board of Control – Water Administration; Current Rules and Regulations; Ch. 5 – Petition Information (http://soswy.state.wy.us/Rules/default.aspx) for a list of the required documents.


What are the petition fees?

The fees are:
  • Total cost per certificate to be amended (petitions for amended certificates, change in place of use or change of use)………..$50.00 
  • Total cost per certificate to be abandoned (declarations of abandonment only)………………………………………………………$50.00
  • No fees are required for petitions for change in point of diversion, point of diversion and means of conveyance, change in location of well or voluntary abandonment. 

When do I need to file the petition for it to be considered at the next Board meeting?

The petition must be filed at least 30 days prior to the date of the meeting at which the petition is to be considered.


How do I find out if I have any water rights?

A search of the agency’s data base is required. You will need to log into e-permit and using the search features available enter the legal description of the property you are interested in.


What is an Authorization to Detach Water Rights (ADWR)?

ADWR’s are a tool in which an appropriator can delay the abandonment of a water right for five (5) years. An accepted ADWR shall constitute authorization for the grantee to request a change of use, change in place of use or voluntary abandonment of a water right within five (5) years of the date of acceptance. If a petition is not filed or, is filed and not granted, within the five (5) years the water right is deemed to be voluntarily abandoned on the anniversary date of the ADWR acceptance and the Board of Control issues an order to that effect.


Where do I find Board Rules and Regulations?

The Secretary of State’s website: http://soswy.state.wy.us/Rules/default.aspx