If you're a Montana property owner, chances are you recently received a form from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation about water rights.

DNRC Communications Director John Grassy said the forms were sent out in response to House Bill 110 exempt water rights process in the last legislative session to over 350,000 Montana households.

"It's important to realize that not everybody is going to qualify for these exempt water rights," Grassy said. "For instance, if you live in town and get your water from a municipal water system, you probably don't qualify for an exempt right. If you have a stock claim, or domestic claim from an in-stream flow or a ground water source, you might want to file for an exempt right."

According to the DNRC, an exempt right is a claim for a water right that hasn't previously been claimed on or wasn't part of the 1982 filing process that you've decided you need to file on.

"If you have a situation on your property where you have a developed well for domestic use that has been in existence since before 1973, or if you water livestock from an in-stream flow on your property and that has been in existence since before July 1, 1973, those are the two scenarios in which people may be eligible to file for a water right," he said. "It's important for people to know that the deadline for filing isn't until 2019, so, there's plenty of time for people to call the DNRC water rights hotline and get all the details figured out."

Grassy said the exempt water rights process has no connection to the water rights compact with the CSKT (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) or to the recent takeover of the Mountain Water Company by the city of Missoula.

The water rights hotline number is 406-444-0560. One of the operators said the hotline is receiving over 400 calls a day, however, there was virtually no wait time for this reporter. In addition, the water rights exemption is transferable to the next owner of the property.

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