Skip to content

Warning: Javascript is disabled.
For full functionality and best experience on our site, it is necessary to enable JavaScript.
Here is instructions to enable JavaScript in your web browser

Back to Top
banner image of mountains

Reserving Water for Instream Use

What is a reservation of water?

A reservation of water is a water right that protects specific flow or lake level use, such as fish spawning or recreation. It sets aside the water necessary for these activities and keeps later water right holders from appropriating water that may affect the instream activity.

Water can be reserved for one of four (or more) purposes, as described in AS 46.15.145 (a) on a stream reach/point or lake level during a certain period of time. These instream flow or lake level purposes are:

  • Protection of fish and wildlife habitat, migration, and propagation
  • Recreation and parks
  • Navigation and transportation
  • Sanitation and water quality

A reservation of water for one use may also allow that same water to be used or reserved for another purpose. For example, a reservation for recreation may also benefit fish spawning.

Like an out-of-stream water right, a reservation of water is similar to a property right. It cannot be abandoned, transferred, assigned, or converted to another use without approval of the Department of Natural Resources, through the review process laid out in AS 46.15.145 (f).

Who can apply for a reservation of water?

Private individuals, organizations, and government agencies may apply for a reservation of water for instream use.  

Why should I apply for reservation of water?

You should apply if you want to ensure that a lake level or stream flow will be available when and where you and the public need it for specific instream or lake level use.

If you have a senior instream water right, you have priority use of that water over people who file later for water rights. You can have legal standing in case of conflicting uses of water by people without water rights.

How can I apply for reservation of water?

You can download an Application for a Reservation of Water Form (PDF) (7/9/2018) or you can get an application for reservation of water at any Department of Natural Resources,  Water Resources Section office.

Your application should include information to support your reservation request. The type of information that would be appropriate will vary based on the purpose of the reservation. Below is an example of the type of information that would be appropriate (not all inclusive) for an application to reserve flows for protection of fish and wildlife habitat, migration, and propagation:

  1. An explanation of the importance of a reservation for the proposed waterbody.

  2. Physical information about the waterbody such as location and discharge/elevation data.

  3. Biological information for the waterbody such as fish or wildlife species known to be present and life phases/periodicity.

  4. A description of the methodology used to substantiate the quantity of water requested.

  5. A description of the importance of the fish/wildlife resource based on subsistence, sport, or commercial uses.

Before submitting an application, you should talk with the office staff about the information needed in your application. If your application is accepted, you will have up to three years to complete the data collection and analysis needed to justify the requested instream reservation.

When your application is considered complete, it will be reviewed to determine the impact on other water right holders and the public interest. An assessment will be made to determine if water is available for the reservation and if the information in the application is accurate and adequate. Public notice of the application must be given.

After this process, a Certificate of Reservation may be issued to you. A Certificate of Reservation must be reviewed by the Department of Natural Resources every ten years, but may be reviewed in less than ten years if necessary.

What costs are involved?

A filing fee of $1,500 (for the first 60 hours of staff time) must accompany an application for reservation of water. Depending on different variables, additional fees can accrue if staff time goes beyond 60 hours. You will also be required to pay the cost of a legal advertisement to notify the public of the proposed reservation of water. If a certificate is issued, you may be required to install and maintain stream gages, weirs, or staff gages, and to monitor and report on the reserved instream flow or level of water. You may also be responsible for additional data collection or analysis during the certificate review.

Where can I get more information about water rights in Alaska?

More information is available in the Department of Natural Resources’ fact sheets on:

Further information and application forms may be obtained from the following offices, or download Forms and Fact Sheets.

Division of Mining, Land & Water
Water Resources Section

550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1020
Anchorage, AK 99501-3577
Phone: (907) 269-8600
Fax: (907) 269-8904