HB 339: Exempt Appropriations of Water
HB 339 provides a straightforward and workable approach to permitting small wells (so-called “exempt wells”) going forward. Agriculture, development, REALTORS® and well-drillers have collaborated to craft a bill that provides for the continued development of de minimis groundwater uses in order to ensure that existing water resources and rights are respected and upheld.
The primary features of HB 339 are as follows:
Codifies a definition of “combined appropriation” and clarifies legislative intent as to what that term means, as the Montana Supreme Court recognized was previously missing from the statute.
Addresses concerns about the density of well development by implementing spacing requirements between wells, with greater distances required in closed basins. (660 feet apart in closed basins, and 330 feet apart in open basins)
A plainly-worded bill with clear guidance for water users and government administrators, HB 339:
- Respects and preserves prior appropriation by avoiding prioritization based on use
- Promotes water conservation by incentivizing grey water systems.
- Preserves the ability to use small wells for small-scale development and agricultural uses while protecting existing water users from dispersed, large-scale well drilling.
- Avoids protracted rulemaking and litigation by clarifying legislative intent.