Western States Water Council

A Voice for Water in the West 


#470 – Endangered Species and State Water Rights

Position #470 – June 25, 2021

WHEREAS, Section 2(c)(2) of the Endangered Species Act declares it is the policy of Congress that Federal agencies shall cooperate with State and local agencies to resolve water resource issues in concert with conservation of endangered species (16 U.S.C. 1531); and

WHEREAS, water in the West is often a scarce resource critical for both a healthy economy and healthy environment, including protected endangered and threatened species; and

WHEREAS, water is both a public and a private resource, with some uses reserved for the public good, while others are recognized as protected private property rights; and

WHEREAS, the States are primarily responsible for the allocation, administration, management, and protection of the water resources and rights to the use of water within their borders, as well as the management and protection of diverse fish and wildlife species and the aquatic and terrestrial environments upon which they depend; and

WHEREAS, many, if not most, of the senior state granted rights to the use of waters in western rivers and streams predate federal environmental protections by decades, and the certainty provided by early water rights continues to be the foundation for past, present and future investments; and

WHEREAS, the West and its flora and fauna, including protected species, are part of a unique and unparalleled heritage reflecting the Nation’s value for wild and open spaces, as well as a western conservation ethic; and

WHEREAS, western States and many western water uses are also committed to the preservation of western species through reasonable, transparent and effective regulatory protections and restrictions, as well as conservation incentives for private property owners; and

WHEREAS, opportunities exist for greater collaboration and cooperation to conserve threatened and endangered species, while recognizing state granted water rights and addressing western water issues, without unmitigated or uncompensated “takings” of either water rights or threatened and endangered species where provided for under state or federal law.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Council calls upon federal agencies to engage in a substantive discussion of past, present and future efforts to work in concert with State agencies to implement Congress’ intent to resolve water and species protection issues.

Revised and Readopted (See also No. 425, Aug 3, 2018)