Water in Montana has a tough job. It must irrigate our fields, float our boats, spin our turbines and brew our beers. It must also provide a home for fish and habitat for wildlife. As a result, water law has a tough job too — it has to balance private rights and public interest.
To promote early development, Montanans made water property. This allows individuals and businesses to invest in water-necessary endeavors with confidence. We then decided that, in times of scarcity, the users here first get priority.
But today’s reality is there simply isn’t enough water to meet our ever-growing demand. When drought strikes, Montana’s first water users get dibs while everyone else eats dirt. The result is a legal system painted into a corner.
Read more from the Billings Gazette here...