May the federal reserved water right affect future water rights?

Yes it may. Once water rights are adjudicated, the federal reserved water right may affect future water development projects, depending upon the impacts of the new proposal on the river’s flow-dependent values. Adjudications have been completed or are in process on 15 designated wild and scenic rivers. To date, existing flows have been sufficient to protect current and future demands and to meet the purposes for which the river was designated. River-administering agencies can work with local and state agencies to negotiate solutions that accommodate future water needs and that protect wild and scenic river flows and outstandingly remarkable values.


Water law is a complex legal area, and water rights are a highly contentious issue. Whenever a water allocation issue arises, a river manager should consult with staff with water rights expertise and, as necessary, seek legal counsel.

Interagency Wild & Scenic Rivers Council