Over the last 30 years, the voluntary transfer of water and water rights for environmental uses has become a recognized strategy for restoring streamflow in the Western United States. Historically, taking water out of a stream was a legally required element of an appropriative water right. Water rights holders who left all or a portion of their right instream to enhance fish populations, riparian habitat or recreation, risked forfeiture or diminishment of their water right. Beginning in the 1980’s, state laws began to recognize both the appropriation of new water rights for instream use and to allow the transfer and amendment of existing appropriative rights for those uses.
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