Obtaining rights to use water for production purposes

Water is an indispensable element for agriculture to exist. It is precisely the agricultural activity that uses this resource in a 85% in tasks of irrigation in this agricultural country. The demand for water in the world is growing, as is the concern for good management of this precious resource.

Legal aspects

Uruguay has been at the forefront of legislation in the region and has enshrined environmental protection at the constitutional level, being a forerunner in the protection of natural resources. There is a national water policy, planning and management of water resources. Water is currently a good protected by the State. Surface water, as well as groundwater, constitutes a unit that is part of the state domain. This has marked a substantial change, a before and after in the disposition of water resources.

Apart from the "common uses" of waters with free access, for watering, fishing and, in general, any use which does not significantly alter or diminish the quantity and quality of public water, where there is no mechanical system of extraction or transfer, there are "private uses" of the natural resource. In this case, authorization must be requested from the National Water Directorate of the Ministry of the Environment, under penalty of being in violation and being sanctioned for not doing so.

When and how to apply for a private water use right?

Any individual or legal entity that constructs a hydraulic work for the use of surface water in rivers, streams, ravines, lakes, lagoons, or a drilling work, to extract water for productive, industrial, commercial, service, and other uses, requires the approval of the work and the granting of private water use rights by the National Water Directorate of the Ministry of Environment.

Hydraulic works, whether dams, dams, reservoirs, dug tanks, intakes or wells, must be based on a professional project. In addition, if the water is to be used for agricultural irrigation activities, a land and water use plan must be submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Managers may go in person to the offices of the agencies or may initiate their procedures through the web pages. They must prove, by means of a notarial certificate, their data, the legal relationship with the property where the work is located, cadastral section, department and submit the projects.

Depending on the work, the volumes requested and the destination of the water, the approval of the irrigation advisory board of the respective regional basin may be required. Also in the case of a new dam, a public hearing will be required. In the case of works involving large volumes of water, the approval of an environmental impact study by the Ministry of the Environment will also be required.

Once the requirements have been met and the project approved, a water use permit or concession will be granted, which will give the applicant the right to the enjoyment and consumption of water for the declared purpose, and its exclusive use for a certain period of time, which may be renewed. The right granted is registered and provides legal security for investments in projects requiring the use of water.

Beatriz Fernandez
Beatriz Fernandez
Legal Consultant. Focus on Agrarian and Rural Law. Public and private management.

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