Utah has many unique laws regarding its water. These laws cause confusion to Utah natives and transplants alike. One of the most common questions a water right attorney in the Wasatch Back probably hears is, “What’s the difference between water rights and water shares?”
The terms “water rights” and “water shares” are not interchangeable. Failing to understand the difference can create a hassle and cost a considerable amount of money.
What follows is important information from Heber water rights attorneys detailing the differences between rights and shares, as well as a few reasons it’s important to know one from the other.
What Are Water Rights?
Unlike many states, in Utah all water (above or below the ground) is owned by the public. Here’s the tricky part: to use water in Utah, you need permission from the state. The State Engineer’s Office apportions the water through the Utah Division of Water Rights.
These permissions are what we call “water rights.” They determine the amount of water you can use, the area of water you control (represented in acre-feet), as well as the permitted uses for the water.
To further complicate things, water rights don’t necessarily transfer automatically when someone purchases land. Prospective developers, entrepreneurs, and homeowners alike should consult a Heber City water rights lawyer to better understand their water rights.
What Are Water Shares?
While Utah’s water is publicly owned, not everyone possesses water rights. An irrigation or ditch digging company might obtain water rights of their own from the Utah Division of Water Rights. The company can then divide shares of these rights among their stockholders, typically in the physical form of a share receipt.
For example, you might own one share of an irrigation company’s rights. If that company owned the right to 1,000 acre-feet of water, and you were one of 1,000 people who owned shares, you’d have the right to 1 acre-foot of that water.
Water shares represent fractions of a water share, owned by a third party purchased directly from a company. As such, your stock is not regulated by the state of Utah, but by the company you’ve chosen. This can be much more difficult to navigate and understand fully; there are many Heber lawyers available to help Utah residents understand their water shares.
Crucial Differences Between Water Shares and Rights
One of the biggest differences between water shares and rights is that water rights are considered “real property.” Water rights require a deed to be filed with your local county recorder’s office. Remember, buying land in Utah doesn’t automatically mean buying water. Someone else may control the water on your land, which can lead to legal battles regarding water use and ownership.
The terms of a water share are dictated by individual companies; Heber lawyers understand how much these terms can vary. A share represents a certain amount of the company’s water right. The state has granted them certain permissions, and as a share owner, you are subject to the same restrictions on the amount of water used, as well as restrictions regarding its usage.
Have More Questions About Water Rights/Shares?
Dealing with Utah water rights and shares can be exhausting and confusing. A Heber water rights lawyer can help you with your deeds, applications, and every other step of the transfer process.
If you have more questions about water rights and water shares in Utah, the Gordon Law Group is here to help you. Our team of Heber City water rights attorneys helps Utahans understand the laws, and helps them obtain access to the water they need.