Well Water, Where?
The 2015 Montana Legislature failed to pass legislation to allow reasonable use of an exempt well for homes, ranches and agriculture. Now this important issue will be decided by the Montana Supreme Court.
What was an exempt well?
An exempt well USED TO ALLOW 35 gallons per minute and 10 acre-feet or water a year. It is estimated that a home with 1 acre of lawn uses less than 2.5 acre-feet a year. (Acre-foot is approximately 1 foot of water covering a football field)
What is an exempt well now?
In 2014 a district judge made a ruling that severely limited exempt well water usage. (Visit MT Water Well Drillers Association Web Site for lawsuit updates) Limitations: Up to 10 acre-feet per year per 40 acres! Which means no more than 3 houses per 40 acres. DNRC Guidance from that case (View PDF)
This ruling will virtually eliminate all new housing starts in rural areas and cause the prices of houses to skyrocket.
Non-Exempt well process:
Water use permitting is dictated by law and administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. The agency determines if water is physically available and if existing water users would be harmed by the proposed diversion. this includes an analysis of the effect a ground water well may have on a river or stream. Current water users may object to the permit application and the applicant WILL have to perform mitigation in order to obtain a permit. That analysis does not apply to exempt wells. RANCHERS – A well for a home and a well for stock on the same 40 acres won’t fly unless they both stay under 10 AF.
Impacts of exempt well rulings on agriculture (View PDF) (NEW) MAR/MBIA Supreme Court Opening Brief (View PDF) (NEW) MT 2015 State Water Plan (View PDF) (NEW) MT 2015 State Water Plan Executive Summary (View PDF) (NEW) MT Well Drillers Opening Brief (View PDF) Water Resource Evaluation - Key Facts (Download Word .docx) Evaluation of Montanas Water Resources (View PDF) Water Policy Interim Committee exempt well study. (View LARGE 35 MB PDF) Dr. Nicklin Executive Summary on water resource evaulation (View PDF) Dr. Nicklin Full Report Water Resource Evaluation (View LARGE 41 MB PDF) MSU-Billings - Impact of Community Water Systems for Bitterroot Valley Housing Developments MT Building Industry Association - 2015 Housing Stats (View PDF) MT Building Industry Association - 2014 Housing Stats (View PDF) Bitterroot Community Well Research Brief (View PDF)