Appropriation of Water Generally

ORS 537.525

The Legislative Assembly recognizes, declares and finds that the right to reasonable control of all water within this state from all sources of water supply belongs to the public, and that in order to insure the preservation of the public welfare, safety and health it is necessary that:


Provision be made for the final determination of relative rights to appropriate ground water everywhere within this state and of other matters with regard thereto through a system of registration, permits and adjudication.


Rights to appropriate ground water and priority thereof be acknowledged and protected, except when, under certain conditions, the public welfare, safety and health require otherwise.


Beneficial use without waste, within the capacity of available sources, be the basis, measure and extent of the right to appropriate ground water.


All claims to rights to appropriate ground water be made a matter of public record.


Adequate and safe supplies of ground water for human consumption be assured, while conserving maximum supplies of ground water for agricultural, commercial, industrial, thermal, recreational and other beneficial uses.


The location, extent, capacity, quality and other characteristics of particular sources of ground water be determined.


Reasonably stable ground water levels be determined and maintained.


Depletion of ground water supplies below economic levels, impairment of natural quality of ground water by pollution and wasteful practices in connection with ground water be prevented or controlled within practicable limits.


Whenever wasteful use of ground water, impairment of or interference with existing rights to appropriate surface water, declining ground water levels, alteration of ground water temperatures that may adversely affect priorities or impair the long-term stability of the thermal properties of the ground water, interference among wells, thermal interference among wells, overdrawing of ground water supplies or pollution of ground water exists or impends, controlled use of the ground water concerned be authorized and imposed under voluntary joint action by the Water Resources Commission and the ground water users concerned whenever possible, but by the commission under the police power of the state except as specified in ORS 537.796 (Rules regarding low temperature geothermal appropriations), when such voluntary joint action is not taken or is ineffective.


Location, construction, depth, capacity, yield and other characteristics of and matters in connection with wells be controlled in accordance with the purposes set forth in this section.


All activities in the state that affect the quality or quantity of ground water shall be consistent with the goal set forth in ORS 468B.155 (State goal to prevent ground water contamination). [1955 c.708 §2; 1985 c.673 §46; 1989 c.201 §2; 1989 c.833 §56]

Notes of Decisions

Where Water Resources Director finds that public welfare, health and safety require corrective controls and director made findings of fact that satisfied statutory standards which director properly interpreted and applied, director's findings and justification for order establishing Butter Creek Critical Ground Water Area were sufficient. Doherty v. Oregon Water Resources Director, 308 Or 543, 783 P2d 519 (1989)

Rule of Water Resources Commission that allows phased reduction of water pumpage to levels of sustainable average yields is consistent with statutory policy. Waterwatch of Oregon v. Water Resources Dept., 120 Or App 366, 852 P2d 902 (1993), Sup Ct review denied

§§ 537.505 to 537.795

Notes of Decisions

Ground Water Act of 1955, construed together with ORS chapter 536, governing administration of water resources generally, cannot be read as expressly prohibiting local bodies from engaging in regulatory activity consistent with statute or agency regulations. Water Resources Dept. v. City of Klamath Falls, 68 Or App 148, 682 P2d 779 (1984), Sup Ct review denied

Atty. Gen. Opinions

Requirements for exploring for or production of geothermal or oil or gas resources, (1974) Vol 37, p 68

Law Review Citations

4 EL 333 (1974); 47 WLR 405 (2011)

Chapter 537

Notes of Decisions

Water control district, in applying for water appropriation permit for hydroelectric project, was exempt from licensing provisions of ORS 543.010 to 543.620 and needed only to comply with requirements of this chapter. Steamboaters v. Winchester Water Control Dist., 69 Or App 596, 688 P2d 92 (1984), Sup Ct review denied

Atty. Gen. Opinions

Reservation to state of "all coal and other minerals" in deed of land by state as reservation of geothermal resources, (1980) Vol 41, p 298

Law Review Citations

11 EL 387 (1981); 16 EL 583, 592 (1986); 28 WLR 285 (1992)


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Jun. 26, 2021