Buying Vacant Land with Water Rights

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Have you ever thought about buying vacant land or land with water rights? I recently attended a clock-hour course featuring John Rose from the Department of Ecology. While the class ranged from our recent draught (a snowpack issue) to wells, I found it most interesting to review water rights and was reminded that they may not show in title. They are “their own thing” as he put it. If someone gives you a water-right certification call the Department of Ecology to see if it is appurtenant (or going with the land).

Land may have an existing well but can be a use-it or loose-it situation. There are various ways water rights can be lost such as statutory forfeiture due to nonuse. Take a farm; has it been using the 100 gallons per acre-feet it was originally allotted? They may have paper rights but those may not hold true today. Many farmers in the Skagit valley saw their usage cut-back fifty percent.

I also learned that because California was interested in using water from the Columbia River, the department of Ecology needed to start a survey of water usage in Eastern Washington going back to 1917.

Much of this may seem esoteric but there are some beautiful homes built on land with wells. I’m currently helping to purchase one and aside from these issues it’s also important to make sure the well will produce for a long period of time – some of the wells bring water up from the aquifers and reduce the water table. The law “first in line, first in right” still holds.

Also, the appreciation numbers are out for last month:

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