What About Water Rights in
Marion County?


  • Put a “Save the Date” in your calendar for WATER RIGHTS BOOT CAMP, hosted by Marion SWCD on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

It will be held at the Keizer Community Center at 930 Chemawa Rd NE, Keizer, OR 97303. The cost is $25 per person and includes coffee and lunch.  Seating is limited.

725 Summer St NE, Ste A, Salem, Oregon 97301      503-986-0889


In Oregon, the access to and use of almost all water for irrigation is regulated by the Water Resources Department (“WRD”). A vested state water right is an asset to any property. Knowing your rights can help you protect a sufficient supply of water and to accurately value land when buying or selling it.

Oregon law provides that “all water from all sources of supply belongs to the public”. Waters of the State may be appropriated for private use only by following the procedures provided for under state law. A landowner who follows these procedures through to a successful completion acquires a water right. The right is memorialized in a Water Right Certificate, a copy of which is kept on file at WRD.


With limited exceptions, a water right is required for use of surface or groundwater on your property. In times of water shortage, a water right gives you priority over persons with rights obtained later in time, even if they are upstream.


A water right authorizes you to take a specific amount of surface or groundwater and apply it to a specified commercial beneficial use. Common beneficial uses recognized by statute for include farming, domestic supply, irrigation, commercial, and fish & wildlife.


A water right is connected to a specified area on one or more parcels of land. Water use on other property, even if owned by the holder of the water right, is not permitted. Landowners can go through procedures to transfer a water right to a different piece of property. Usually, a water right remains with the land if the parcel is sold.


A water right remains valid only if it is used at least once every five years. After five consecutive years of non-use, the right is considered forfeited.

In the event a water right is lost, a land owner has several options to obtain water for irrigation. The landowner may: (a) apply for a new surface water right; (b) apply for a new groundwater right; (c) buy or lease an existing water right and transfer it; or (d) lease water from another user if the property is in an irrigation district.

In some parts of the county, very limited or no new water rights to divert water for irrigation during the summer and fall are available.


A water right is acquired by filing an application with WRD. If the application is granted, WRD will issue you a permit to appropriate water. Then it’s up to you to complete your project and get the water applied to the entire acreage described in the application within the time specified in the permit (generally three years).  Farmers can apply to the WRD for extensions of time for completing construction.

When construction is complete you must submit to WRD evidence that the permitted amount of water has been diverted and applied to the specified use. If WRD is satisfied with this proof, it issues a water right “certificate,” which is conclusive, lasting proof of the water right.


A water right permit or certificate is required in order to appropriate any water of the state, including groundwater. However, there are several uses which are exempt from permitting requirements.  A landowner can use up to 15,000 gallons per day for purposes related to the residential use of property, such as human consumption, household uses and domestic animal watering. Also, water may be used for watering livestock and for irrigation of up to one-half acre of lawn or noncommercial garden.  These groundwater exemptions, if applicable, mean that the water may be used without going through state permitting, or even registration, processes.


Certain parts of the Marion County have been designated critical Groundwater Management Areas.  If your property is in a Groundwater Management area, you may not be able to secure a right to use groundwater if you do not already have one, and you may not be entitled to exemptions and might be subject to additional restrictions such as seasonal limitations and monitoring requirements.


Man-made ponds, reservoirs and other impoundments of water generally require two types of water right permit: a permit to construct an impoundment, and a permit for the quantity of water to be impounded. These include county, state and federal permits and require engineered plans, and attaining permits can be time consuming and costly.


Water is becoming a scarce and valuable resource, and one landowner’s use of it often impacts other users in the same area. It’s a good business practice to be aware of the water rights of farms around you. WRD has two information tools that can help you get information. First, WRD publishes a weekly notice containing all water right applications, transfer applications, and WRD administrative actions. The notices are available on the WRD’s web site. Second, WRD’s computer filing system may be accessed  online at “”. This filing system can be searched for a parcel of land; by address, or Township, Range and Section, or the original water rights petitioner.  Water rights are filed under the original applicant for the permit, not the current landowner.


There are two times it’s important to review your water rights.  The first time is prior to the purchase or sale of land.  Water rights are valuable assets to a parcel of real property, and it is important to understand the water rights attached to a parcel before buying or selling it. The most important questions include:

What is the priority date of the water right? The earlier the priority date, the more secure the source of water, even during a drought.

What lands are covered by the right? Water may be used only on land covered by the water right.

Has the right in fact been used? If no water has been used for beneficial purposes during the past five years, the right probably no longer exists.

The second time it’s important to review your water rights is right now, on all existing lands.  If you change farming practices, such as changing from a non-irrigated crop and to one that needs irrigation, can you irrigate it?  Are you using all your water rights to ensure they are current?  Are you using them on the right acreage and at the specified rate? 

This article based on information received from Stoel Rives law firm, established in 1907.

Irrigation Efficiency and Technology
by Brandon Bishop, Ag Conservation Planner
Increased efficiency has been a hot topic for several years now.  We have started to see the outcomes of some of the work toward efficiency overall; whether it’s alternative fuel cars, LED lighting or Mobile Apps that make life simpler and save time, like ordering your groceries on your Smart Phone.  But what about irrigation?  We rely on irrigation to help produce an array of crops throughout the year and fortunately, we don't often hear of water shortageSo, how can we better prepare and plan for water shortages?  The answer: increase irrigation efficiency!  The basic requirements of water moving from a source to a crop isn’t going to change anytime soon, but how to do this is constantly improving.

Water conservation is a priority of our District.  We work on ways to use less water, while still meeting crop and yield goals in both times of abundance and drought.  Upgrading irrigation systems often improve efficiencies by more than 30%, saving hundreds of thousands or even millions of gallons of water each season. 

Enhancements in pumps, nozzles, sensors and precision application can help conserve water while improving your operation.  New pump technologies are moving water with less energy and frequency.  Improved nozzles are reducing drift and evaporation, while delivering water with increased precision to targeted areas.  Soil sensors monitor moisture levels to reduce over watering and can help improve irrigation scheduling.  You don’t have to install a linear or convert your whole farm to drip irrigation to improve your irrigation efficiencies and your conservation efforts. 

Whether you have one acre or one hundred acres, take the time to audit your current system.  Review and analyze water requirements and the unique conditions of each of your sites.  Develop irrigation schedules based upon water requirements using timers and sensors.  Do regular and continued maintenance of your systems.  Estimate potential financial and water savings from implementing new technologies.  Talk to your local hardware or irrigation supplier about new products for increasing your efficiencies and how you can make every drop count. 

There are many ways we can work together to help reduce the use of this critical resource.
For more information or further assistance, please contact Marion Soil and Water Conservation District at 503-391-9927
Irrigation Maintenance Sheet

Irrigation System operation and Maintenance:
  • Develop an irrigation plan and record water usage throughout each season. Prepare for seasonal changes that affect your system (Extreme heat or cold).
  • Operate the system only when needed for plant growth, and operate within the design specifications (pressure, discharge rate, and run time.)
  • Monitor flow meter data to maintain uniform distribution of water, address any abnormalities. 
Drip Line Systems:
  • Check lines for any excessive leakage
    Inject cleaner at least twice a year or more when needed
  • Inspect Nozzles for plugged or broken emitters
  • Check system after other farming practices for broken components (broken sprinklers/connections)
  • Flush lines before and after each season to clear larger debris
  • Check all connections periodically to maintain proper system seal.
  • Replace gaskets with excessive wear or leaks
  Linear/Pivot Systems
  • Check Nozzles for build-ups or malfunctions
  • Replace worn or torn gaskets to insure proper seals
  • Maintain all gearboxes, motors and other mechanical drive components
  • Periodically evaluate nozzles for new technology upgrades
Fish Screen maintenance
  • Visual inspection of screen for debris buildup
  • Inspect all gaskets and fittings before and after every season
  • Remove buildup with brush or broom as needed
Congratulations to Laurie Aguirre's 2nd & 3rd grade class at Olé Charter School!!! 
Winners of this year's mural contest!!

All meetings start at 7 PM and are held at the
Marion SWCD Offices:  338 Hawthorne Ave NE, Salem
  • June 20 - Budget Hearing and Board Meeting
  • July 11 - Board Meeting (Due to the July 4th Holiday, this date is still tentative and will be finalized by the SWCD Board in late June)
  • August 1 - Board Meeting
  • September 5 - Board Meeting
Meet the Staff: 
Sarah Hamilton
Restoration Project Coordinator

I’m excited to join the Marion Soil & Water Conservation District staff as the new Restoration Project Coordinator! I come to Marion SWCD from Clackamas SWCD, where I spent 3.5 years as an invasive plant specialist, and the coordinator for both the Columbia River Gorge Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA), and the 4-County (Portland area) CWMA.

Prior to that I was a crew leader for a conservation crew based in Washington. I also worked for several years as a Faculty Research Assistant at OSU with Northern spotted owls, I conducted forest surveys for the USFS and for OSU, I interned at West Multnomah SWCD, and I was an Americorp volunteer at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa.

I was fortunate to grow up right here in Salem, with the Santiam River, Silver Falls, and the Oregon coast as my playground. I attended Oregon State University and received a bachelor’s degree in 2002.  I also hold an associate of applied sciences degree in horticulture.

In my spare time I love to travel and have lived in Wales, Alaska, Iowa, and California, as well as all around the Willamette Valley. I’ve visited many European countries, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and about 20 US states. I also love time in nature. On most weekends you will find me hiking, biking, kayaking, or somehow reveling in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

I have recently started a very small native plant nursery to encourage landowners to consider natives in their gardens. The plants are being sold at fairs and farmers markets in the area. It’s a fun side project for a plant nerd.

I’m excited to bring my skills and knowledge back to Marion County and to have an impact on all the places that I love. I look forward to working with you!
Hogweed, Parsnip and Hemlock, Oh My!!  How to Identify these three look alike plants.
By Jenny Meizel,  Native and Invasive Plant Specialist
This time of year, cow parsnip and poison hemlock are in full bloom and the Marion SWCD usually receives a few phone calls from concerned citizens about these plants. Cow parsnip and poison hemlock can be easily confused with the highly toxic giant hogweed (which blooms about a month later and is a much larger plant). The following information and photos will help you determine the differences between them.

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is most visible in late June and early July when it is in full bloom.  This toxic plant is native to south central Russia and was brought to the US in the early 20th Century for arboretums and private gardens.  The sap from this plant is highly toxic. It makes human skin sensitive to sunlight and can cause severe burns and scars.

Giant Hogweed plants typically grow 10-12 feet tall, but some flowering stems can reach up to 15 feet tall!  Leaves can be up to 4 feet in diameter. The leaves have toothed edges and deep lobes, giving them a very jagged and pointy appearance.  The stem is hollow and covered with purple/red spots and small white hairs.  The stems are almost all purple/red at the base. The flower heads are large and shaped like umbrellas at the top of the plants with many tiny white flowers. The flower clusters can be up to 3 feet across.  Everything about this plant is giant—the leaves, the flower clusters and the height!  None of these other plants get this tall or have leaves as large as giant hogweed.

Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) has many smaller flower clusters. Each cluster is usually smaller than a baseball.  Compare this to giant hogweed, whose few flower clusters can be up to 3 feet in diameter.  The leaves of poison hemlock look similar to a carrot leaf but are larger. Poison hemlock can grow 6-8 feet tall and it also has a highly poisonous sap that should not be ingested or inhaled. This is the plant which killed Socrates.   

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum) most closely resembles giant hogweed.  It is native to Oregon and also has sap that can cause similar sun sensitivity, though the sap is not nearly as toxic as hogweed and rarely causes problems.  Cow parsnip typically grows up to 6-8 feet tall, but with the wet weather we had here in Western Oregon this winter, some plants can grow over 8 feet tall, which can cause confusion with giant hogweed. Cow parsnip also flowers earlier than hogweed—mid May to early June, compared to late June or early July for hogweed. 

If you see Giant Hogweed in Marion County, please contact the Marion SWCD or fill out a report on the Oregon Invasives Hotline:

If you are still confused and suspect you have seen Giant Hogweed, you can send a photo of the plant in question to Jenny Meisel: Please try to include a picture of the leaves, stem and flowers.

Information for this article was compiled from King County Washington, Oregon Department of Agriculture and City of Portland. 

For more information see the following websites:
Thank you to everyone who participated in our 2018 Native Plant Sale and Scholarship fundraiser.

Our native plant sale is a fundraiser that supports the Stan Vistica Memorial Scholarship.  Profits from the native plant sale help fund scholarships for two students from Marion County studying Natural Resources or Agriculture at an Oregon College or University. The scholarship was established in 2006 and is named after an outstanding friend, conservationist, and former Board Member, Stan Vistica.  The scholarship is administered through the Office of Student Access and Completion:
Sutherlin High School FFA takes the Oregon Envirothon by Storm
By Ron Crouse, Natural Resource Education Specialist
On May 4 the Oregon Forest Resources Institute hosted 32 teams at the Oregon Garden in Silverton for the 23rd annual Oregon Envirothon. Testing was administered in the subjects of aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife ecology and soils and land use. The current issue this year was rangeland management. The oral presentation required students to produce a video featuring an original management plan that enhances sage grouse habitat in rangeland. Logos Public Charter School from Medford won the top honors for the oral presentation by one point with 96/100, however Sutherlin High School FFA swept the rest of the competition with the highest score ever of 324.5 points out of 350. Way to go Sutherlin!. They won top honors in all the individual tests and traveled home with stacks of trophies. The runners-up were Logos in 2nd place, Sutherlin High School FFA 2nd team in 3rd place, Newberg High School in 4th place and Amity High School FFA in 5th place.

Team Sutherlin will now travel to Pocatello, Idaho at the end of July to represent Oregon at the National Conservation Foundation’s North American Envirothon to be held at Idaho State University. They will compete against the winners of most all states and Canadian provinces as well as two teams visiting from China.

After over 20 years of Marion SWCD planning and hosting the Oregon Envirothon, the program has now officially been turned over to the Oregon Forest Resource Institute.  They have a much larger base of state-wide resources and we are confident that they will do well at managing and expanding the Envirothon program. It has been extremely rewarding to have helped in the development and expansion of this valuable natural resource education program and am excited to see what the future holds for Oregon Envirothon.

Notice is hereby given that on November 6, 2018, an election will be held for the purpose of electing board directors to the following positions for the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District:

  • Zone 2, 4 years
  • Zone 3, 4 years
  • Zone 5, 4 years
  • At-Large 2, 4 years

Zone boundaries and eligibility requirements may be obtained at the SWCD Office located at 338 Hawthorne Ave NE, Salem, OR., or call 503-391-9927 or CLICK HERE. 

Election forms and information may be found here:

Each candidate must file a “Declaration of Candidacy” and a “Petition for Nomination Signature Sheet” with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Division. The filing deadline is 5:00 p.m. on August 28, 2018.

Financial Assistance available to eligible landowners, managers and operators to implement conservation practices
Landowner Assistance Program (LAP)

The deadline for the next funding round to accept Landowner Assistance Program (LAP) applications is Monday, July 9, 2018 at 3pm.  All completed applications must be turned into one of the District’s technical staff.    Anyone interested in applying needs to contact District staff with their project idea or assistance application by June 15th so all paperwork can be completed before the July deadline.  
OWEB Small Grants
Landowners looking for financial assistance to prevent erosion along streams, increase irrigation efficiency, or improve native fish habitat can apply for a grant tailored for these and similar small projects.

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Small Grant Program provides up to $15,000 in Oregon Lottery funds for individual projects that help restore watershed elements such as creeks, rivers or wetlands. Projects must benefit aquatic species, wildlife or waterway health. At least 25 percent of the OWEB funds must be matched from other sources. 

The next application deadline is August 17, 2018. The review process takes approximately 60 days. Successful applicants have two years to complete the funded project.

 “The program is a good combination of on-the-ground benefits to watersheds with on-the-ground benefits to landowners,” said Meta Loftsgaarden, OWEB executive director.

Watershed councils, soil and water conservation districts and tribes submit applications on behalf of landowners. Teams with representatives from councils, districts and tribes have established priorities for types of projects to be funded under this program. Local evaluation committees review applications and forward recommendations for funding to OWEB.

Some examples of priority watershed concerns are instream process and function, fish passage, urban impact reduction, riparian process and function, wetland process and function, upland process and function, and water quality/irrigation. Examples of recently funded projects include riparian fencing, irrigation efficiency, wetland restoration, manure management and storage, and oak woodland restoration.

Anyone interested in applying should contact Susan Ortiz, who serves as the local Small Grant Team contact for the Middle Willamette East Small Grant Team (serving Marion, Linn, and a small portion of Clackamas County).
Reach Ortiz at 503-391-9927 or  

The Small Grant Program has helped agricultural landowners comply with Agricultural Water Quality Management Area Plans designed to ensure that agricultural operations protect water quality. More than 75 percent of program projects have supported the plans.

Since 2002, the Small Grant Program has awarded more than $7.8 million to nearly 1,200 projects.

Other OWEB grant programs fund more complex projects and support a variety of related activities. For more information about OWEB activities and programs, visit or call OWEB in Salem at 503-986-0178.

OWEB projects support the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds that emphasizes private, voluntary actions to restore wild salmon populations. OWEB is a state agency led by a policy oversight board. The agency provides grants and services to citizen groups, organizations and agencies working to restore healthy watersheds in Oregon.  Funding comes from the Oregon Lottery as a result of a citizen initiative in 1998, sales of salmon license plates, federal salmon funds and other sources.
The Small Grant Program is a competitive grant program that awards funds of up to $15,000 for on-the-ground restoration projects.
  • A Small Grant applicant must be a tribe, watershed council, or soil and water conservation district.
  • These entities act on behalf of private landowners, not-for-profit institutions, schools, community colleges, state institutions of higher education, independent not-for-profit institutions of higher education, and local, state, or federal agencies.
  • The project must be an on-the-ground restoration project in Oregon. Monitoring, education, and outreach projects are not eligible. The project must demonstrate benefits to aquatic species, wildlife, or watershed health.
  • Evidence of at least 25 percent secured match funding, based on the total OWEB award, must be shown prior to disbursement of grant funds
The Marion Soil and Water Conservation District complies with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status.
Copyright © 2018 Marion Soil and Water Conservation District, All rights reserved.

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