BOZEMAN, Mont. - Water use on the West Gallatin River is officially cut off for people who hold rights 1890 to the present. This went into effect just days ago, so we wanted to know how this will impact people in our area.
We spoke with George Alberda, the water commissioner for the West Gallatin River. He handles water rights all the way from Manhattan to the mouth of the Gallatin Canyon.
Montana law is 'first in time, first in right.' We checked the facts and found the first water rights dates back to June 15,1865. The newest water right on record is in 1988.
"They are not glad to hear their water has been cut off because it is money to them," said Alberda.
Alberda tells us that 99 percent of the people he deals with are farmers and when they cut water use it does have an impact on their crops.
"It will affect their second-cut hay crop. Most of the grain is already made but they will need water. Hay, potatoes and corn are the main crops growing," said Alberda.
We met with a local farmer, Maynard Flikkema. He showed us around his farm that has been in the family for nearly 100 years. When we asked him about the water cut he tells us it is something they have been through many times, but it not easy.
"It is something you have to deal with. It is hard," said Flikkema.
We also wanted to know if the timeline for this year's water cutoff is any different than previous years. Alberda tells us with the rain this spring, the water cutoff was right around the same time as last year.