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Water Law Terms

Acre-foot The quantity of water required to cover 1 acre to a depth of 1 foot, or 325,851 gallons
aquifer A porous water-bearing geologic formation. The term is used to describe any underground area which serves as a common supply of water obtained by pumping.
artesian well A well that taps a confined aquifer. The aquifer often has sufficient pressure to create a natural flow of water.
calling the river The action taken by a senior appropriator to curtail junior diversions when necessary to permit the senior to take her full entitlement.
confined aquifer An aquifer that is closed between impermeable materials.
conjunctive use The coordinated use of surface water and groundwater to maximize the value of both resources.
consumptive use The amount of water consumed by a particular use and thus unavailable for further use.
conveyance loss The loss of water from a ditch, canal, or other conduit due to evaporation, leakage, seepage, or transpiration.
cubic foot per second The quantity of water flowing at a velocity of one foot per second through a box one foot wide and one foot deep. Usually abbreviated "cfs" it is equivalent to 448.8 gallons per minute or slightly more than 646,000 gallons per day.
ditch An artificial open channel or waterway constructed through earth or rock, for the purpose of carrying water. A ditch is smaller than a canal, although the line of demarcation between the two is indefinite. May be lined with material to prevent seepage.
diversion The extraction of water from its natural source, usually into a ditch or canal, for ultimate use on land, in industry, or for domestic purposes.
divide A high point on land which separates two river basins or drainage basins.
drainage basin The area drained by a river and its tributaries. The land area from which water drains into the Colorado River and its tributaries, for example, comprises the Colorado River basin. Also called a "catchment area" "watershed," or "river basin."
efficiency The ratio of (1) the quantity of water consumed by a particular use to (2) the volume of water diverted for the use. Sometimes defined as the ratio of the quantity consumed to the volume of water delivered for the use.
effluent The water, usually polluted, which is discharged into a stream from sewers, industrial plants, or other pollution sources.
flood plain That portion of a river valley which is covered with water when the river overflows its banks at flood stage.
groundwater Subsurface water from which wells and springs are fed. In a strict sense
groundwater basin A physiographic or geologic unit containing at least one aquifer of significant areal extent.
headgate A device to control water flow, placed at the entrance to a conduit such as a pipeline, or canal. The point at which water is diverted from a river into an irrigation ditch.
headwaters The place where a river originates.
impermeable Material that does not permit the passage of water or other fluids.
instream use Water uses that do not require a diversion - e.g., fishing or transportation.
lateral A minor ditch that branches off a main ditch or canal and is used to transport water onto the land where it will be used.
leaching The removal of salts and alkali from soils by abundant irrigation combined with drainage.
littoral rights The equivalent of riparian rights for those who border a lake rather than a flowing stream.
miner's inch An obsolescent term measuring the rate of flow of water. A variable measure equal to between 0.02 and 0.029 cfs depending on the state.
mouth of a river The place where a river empties into another river, or into the sea.
nonconsumptive use Any water use that does not reduce the supply of water available for other uses - e.g., hunting and swimming.
phreatophyte A water-loving plant. Usually describes vegetation such as cottonwood trees which line the banks of a stream and soak up water sought to be used to irrigate agricultural crops.
recharge, groundwater The flow of water into an aquifer.
return flow Any flow which returns to a stream channel after diversion for use. In irrigation, water applied to an area which is not consumed in evaporation or transportation, and returns to a surface stream or groundwater aquifer.
river basin See "Drainage Basin"
safe yield Generally the amount of water that can be extracted each year from an aquifer on a renewable basis.
unconfined aquifer
water, duty of
water table
Created by: aajohn64