Rep. Owens: Water rights laws need change

By on Friday, January 8th, 2021 in Eastern/Southeast Oregon Top Stories

HARNEY COUNY – The Oregon State Legislature is scheduled to convene on Jan. 11 and Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane) said one of the issues he plans to pursue is that of water right forfeiture.  Owens noted that not only is there a water problem in Harney County, but the state as a whole has a water problem. Efforts are being made to conserve water, but there is a major drawback.

“Right now Oregon water law is not set up that those [water] rights can be protected if you design your system for conservation. If you don’t use your full allocation of water within a five-year period of time, you could jeopardize that allocation. So it disincentivizes someone from trying to be the most efficient they can. We need to change that,” Owens said. “We need to incentivize people in order to use less water or at least not allow them to potentially jeopardize an equity asset of a water certificate because they’re trying to use less water.”

Rep. Owens, Senator Lynn Findley and Rep. Daniel Bonham will be hosting a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday, Jan.14, from 5:50 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The public is encouraged to submit questions in advance via email at