Letter Supporting H.R. 3189, the Water Rights Protection Act

Monday, March 10, 2014 - 5:00pm


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing the
interests of more than three million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state
and local chambers and industry associations, and dedicated to promoting, protecting, and
defending America’s free enterprise system, strongly supports H.R. 3189, the “Water Rights
Protection Act.” This bipartisan bill would protect water supplies and property rights from
federal agency overreach by ensuring that the federal government cannot condition its approval
of permits, leases, and other use agreements on the restriction or loss of applicable state water

While eastern states typically apply riparian law to water rights questions, western states
generally use the prior appropriation doctrine, which is “first in time, first in right.” State laws
protecting waters for multiple uses in western states have been in existence for over a century.
Water rights are obtained by diverting water for “beneficial use,” which can include domestic
use, irrigation, manufacturing, mining, hydropower, municipal use, agriculture, and others
depending on state law.

Recent federal actions have threatened this longstanding federal-state water rights
relationship. Agencies increasingly require unnecessary and restrictive use conditions that must
be met before land owners can receive or renew a permit. H.R. 3189 would prohibit the
conditioning of any permit, lease, or other use agreement on the transfer of any water right to the
United States by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture.

H.R. 3189 would protect water uses while ensuring that state water laws are upheld by
prohibiting federal agencies from imposing permit conditions that requires privately held water
rights to be transferred to the federal government in exchange for a new or renewed permit to
operate on federal land.

This bill would ensure that the longstanding federal-state water relationship is maintained
and not compromised by the placement of unreasonable permit conditions. The Chamber
strongly supports H.R. 3189.