Montana ranchers seek to curb residential wells


The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 2, 2009; 9:48 AM

BILLINGS, Mont. — Ranchers in Montana has asked a state agency to stop giving away water use rights for tens of thousands of new homes being built in areas once dominated by agriculture.

Across the arid West, residential subdivisions and agricultural interests are vying for control of water supplies that have emerged as one of the region’s most coveted natural resources.

In the latest skirmish between the two groups, five Montana ranch owners filed a petition Tuesday with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, charging the state’s water rules were stacked against them.

The rules allow the small wells used by each house within larger subdivisions to qualify for exemptions from state water laws. Those laws otherwise give precedence to the “senior” rights of farms and ranches…

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