Aqua Capital Management is a water rights investment and management company focused on building a portfolio of water rights in water-scarce regions around the globe.
Aqua manages the largest institutionally owned, diversified portfolio of water rights in the United States and has executed more than 500 water rights transactions. We are active in most of the major U.S. water markets. We understand supply and demand dynamics of the water market on a local level as well as the impact of local water supply alternatives on water rights valuations. Additionally, we have strong relationships with the major water market participants. Aqua’s team possesses the required expertise and understands the regional, state and jurisdictional protocols necessary to execute water rights transactions.
Greater Murray Darling Basin Region:
The Murray Darling Basin of Australia is an area of national significance for economic, social, cultural and environmental reasons. It is the catchment for the Murray and Darling rivers and their tributaries, and covers 14 percent of Australia’s land area. Annual distributions of rainfall can vary greatly here, and significant water storage and delivery infrastructure has been developed in the basin to increase the reliability of water supplies. A regulatory structure has been developed which promotes water markets and the trading of defined water entitlements to efficiently utilize the basin’s limited water resources. By design, water market participants rely on the efficient and transparent trading of water rights to meet agricultural, industrial, municipal and environmental demands in the Murray Darling Basin and other parts of the country. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the region; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Northeast Region (U.S.)Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia:
The Northeastern region of the United States has historically had an abundance of water resources. This abundance, and the infrequent conflict associated with this condition, has facilitated a patchwork of regulatory systems that revolve around riparian rights and common law. As shifts in climate and demographics, as well as a greater sensitivity to environmental needs, cut into the relative abundance, the need for a robust system that provides clarity and certainty to users and a comprehensive approach to safeguarding this public good will inevitably become a larger issue. Aqua’s experience in newly developing water markets will be of benefit to water users in this region. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the region; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Southeast Region (U.S.)Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina:
In 1818, a surveyor’s mistake placed the Tennessee–Georgia border about a mile south of where it was intended to be. A few years ago, almost two centuries after achieving statehood and facing the pressures of a prolonged drought, Georgia lawmakers overwhelmingly approved resolutions authorizing the creation of a commission tasked with rectifying this mistake and attempted to give Georgia another valuable source of water from the Tennessee River. While this bid to redraw state lines has not had much success, it encapsulates how recent drought has increased the complexity and frequency of disputes among competing water users in the Southeastern U.S. Georgia, Alabama and Florida have been in a legal battle over regional water rights for the past 20 years, and cooperation among various levels of government in these states will be key to accommodating the growing needs of the region moving forward. The system of governance in the region, based on riparian rights alone, may prove insufficient to adequately address the competing demands for the water. Many states have augmented this system with additional regulation, especially in areas of imbalance between supply and demand. Although the states in the region vary in their regulation of water users, a common theme has been increased registration and reporting requirements for significant users; which could lay the foundation for a transition to more robust permitting requirements. Aqua’s experience in regulated markets benefits parties with exposure to the evolving regulatory environment in this region. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the region; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Midsouth Region (U.S.)
Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee:
Memphis, the largest city in Tennessee, pumps approximately 200 million gallons every day to serve the needs of its metropolitan area. The city, which overlies the Memphis Sands aquifer, has relied on this water source for its growing needs. In 2005, the state of Mississippi sued the city of Memphis for allegedly stealing Mississippi’s groundwater, as the Memphis Sands aquifer underlies both states, although Memphis pumps from well fields within Tennessee. This conflict demonstrates one of the many issues the states of the Midsouth Region will have to reconcile when it comes to regulating groundwater. Mississippi encourages the conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water, recognizing that it is all part of the same hydrological system and does not subscribe to absolute ownership of water rights. However, some states like Louisiana do. Tennessee takes a regulated riparian approach to managing its water resources, but the degree of regulation is different than the states surrounding it. Missouri, also a riparian rights state, currently requires registration from large users and is in the process of legislating greater powers of regulation to the state. Arkansas has set up critical groundwater areas in which new users would be required to obtain a permit prior to withdrawing water. Kentucky, perhaps the most regulated of these states, has a statewide permitting requirement for withdrawals over 10,000 gallons per day. As the conditions that have historically allowed a relatively relaxed approach to water resource management change due to increased competition for a scarce resource, the regulatory environment will have to become more robust to serve the needs of all stakeholders. Aqua’s experience in complicated regulatory environments may prove to be beneficial to water rights holders and users in the region. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the region; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Upper Midwest Region (U.S.)Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin:
The Great Lakes, although containing one-fifth of all the fresh surface water available on the planet, has a very small percentage of the system renewed every year. This great hydrological system is used by many disparate interests, including municipal, industrial, agricultural, mining, navigation, hydroelectric and power generation, as well as recreation. Recognizing the importance of these waters, the states and Canadian provinces of the region came together to create a comprehensive and consultative framework to preserve this resource. This process began with the Great Lakes Charter in 1985 and culminated with the Great Lakes Compact, which became effective in 2008. Even in a region that is traditionally considered “water rich” by many, government and regulatory agencies track and collect data regarding the type and location of diversions to prevent uses that would negatively impact lake levels, in basin uses and the ecosystem at large. All of these states require registration for large users of water and some even require permitting. Aqua’s experience dealing with government agencies on the federal, state, county and municipal levels will be invaluable to water users in this region as the regulatory environment in the region evolves to accommodate the requirements of the Compact. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water right transactions in the region; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Texas’ size and geographical diversity means correspondingly large and diverse types of water rights, regulations and opportunities. Aqua’s understanding of the state’s historical surface water and groundwater permitting and transfer processes, the evolving role of Groundwater Conservation Districts, the Edwards Aquifer Authority and our meaningful transactional experience in the state combine to bring value to our customers. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is the primary authority responsible for the administration of water rights in the state. Groundwater is administered by determining the maximum annual yield of a groundwater basin and then equally allocating it to each acre of land that overlies the basin. Oklahoma’s surface water law affecting “definite streams” has evolved over time as conflicts between incompatible appropriative and riparian doctrines were resolved. The state is a party to four separate Interstate Stream Compacts, including two Arkansas River Compacts, the Canadian River Compact and the Red River Compact. Oklahoma is also home to over 40 recognized tribal governments that own water rights in the state. Additionally, Oklahoma’s neighbor to the south, Texas, is seeking to acquire access to Oklahoma water supplies via court action. Understanding the risks and opportunities associated with these dynamics is a way Aqua can bring value to a water transfer in Oklahoma. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Historically, Kansas water law followed a duel system of riparian and absolute ownership doctrines. In 1945, the Kansas legislature adopted the prior appropriation doctrine for both surface water and groundwater and recognized pre-1945 rights as “vested.” Kansas is a party to four interstate river compacts that govern the allocation of water in the state’s major interstate rivers. The Division of Water Resources (Department of Agriculture) is responsible for the administration of water rights in Kansas, which includes the administration of water transfers in accordance with the Water Transfer Act. Aqua’s understanding of water rights values and transfer protocols in Kansas combine to help us meet the transactional requirements of our customers. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new waters rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Nebraska water rights are administered by the Department of Natural Resources. In many parts of the state, groundwater and surface water systems are clearly hydrologically connected. However, prior to Legislative Bill 108 in 1996, surface water and groundwater were regulated separately, with surface water being regulated according to “prior appropriation” principles and groundwater being managed under the common law concept of “correlative rights.” Legislative Bill 108 recognized hydrologically connected groundwater and surface water may need to be managed differently than unconnected groundwater and surface water, and set in motion a regulatory transition. Dealing with the conflicting interests of hydrologically connected surface water and groundwater users has been, and will likely continue to be, an issue in the state. As new resource management and regulatory requirements evolve in the fully appropriated basins of the state, water rights transfers could begin to play a more prominent role in economically distributing water while protecting historical users. Aqua’s broad understanding of water markets ranging from newly developed to mature, and their associated regulatory principles, may prove beneficial to water rights holders and users in the state. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Water rights in South Dakota are administered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and water law in the state follows the prior appropriation doctrine. The regulation of water rights and permits is the responsibility of the Water Management Board. Understanding the rules and regulations related to water rights ownership and transfer are just a few of the ways in which Aqua brings value to current and future water rights owners. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
In North Dakota, water rights are governed by the prior appropriation doctrine. The State Water Commission, established in 1937, is led by the state engineer and is responsible for managing water rights in the state. In 1976, the North Dakota Supreme Court interpreted the public trust doctrine by ruling the state engineer must weigh the impacts to both current and future water users when considering the issuance of a new water right (United Plainsmen Assoc. v. North Dakota State Water Conservation Commission). Aqua understands how this court ruling, along with the other rules and procedures in place, impacts the water market in North Dakota. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Water management in Arizona is of crucial importance due to the state’s growing population in a desert climate with limited water resources. The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) is responsible for securing long-term dependable water supplies for Arizona communities. In addition, ADWR is the authority responsible for regulating groundwater and surface water in the state. Per the “Law of the River,” a suite of compacts, federal laws, court decisions and decrees, contracts and regulatory guidelines, Arizona is annually allocated 2.8 million acre feet of water from the Colorado River. This imported surface water supply is delivered to Arizona communities via the Central Arizona Project (CAP) and is used both directly and indirectly. An example of indirect use is the water banking system and the mechanism to create Long-term Storage Credits. Other surface water supplies in the state are governed based on the prior appropriation doctrine, and significant adjudications are ongoing for the Gila River and the Little Colorado River systems. With respect to groundwater, ADWR’s groundwater management code has set up Irrigation Nonexpansion Areas as well as Active Management Areas. Aqua has extensive experience within the state buying, selling and leasing different rights and working with municipal providers, land developers, agricultural interests, golf courses, homeowners associations, farms and power companies. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
New Mexico depends on a limited amount of surface water and groundwater resources to satisfy its demand for water. The majority of the state’s climate is classified as semiarid to arid and receives an average of less than 15 inches of precipitation annually. Interstate compacts, managed by the Interstate Stream Commission, play a role in determining the amount of surface water available to the state and ultimately to water rights holders. The Office of the State Engineer has broad authority over the appropriation and transfer of the state’s water resources. This authority includes the approval and processing of water rights transfers, such as pre-1907 Middle Rio Grande surface water rights. Aqua’s understanding of the New Mexico water market, along with the complexities required to successfully complete a water transfer, uniquely positions us to work with water rights holders and users. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Arguably, Colorado has the most mature and complex water rights system in the world today. It began in the 1850s when new water users recognized the economic importance of protecting the reliability of their water supplies. In 1876, the state’s constitution formally instituted the prior appropriation doctrine, which formed the bedrock of water law in the state. The legal right and regulatory process to divert or change the time/type/place of water use in Colorado has been deliberated and refined ever since. Interstate compacts, renewable resources, basin transfers, new water storage developments, Denver Basin reliability, tributary or nontributary distinctions, designated groundwater basins, agriculture-to-urban conversions, water transfers, consumptive use, dry-up covenants, delivery mechanisms and projected supply/demand imbalances are all issues shaping the water market in Colorado. Aqua has experience dealing with these issues and understands how they impact the value of water rights and ditch shares and is well positioned to provide solutions. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Utah water rights are governed according to the prior appropriation doctrine. Water rights in Utah are administered by the state engineer. Most of the water supplies near the large population centers are fully appropriated which may require new water users to either purchase or lease existing water rights to meet their water requirements. Utah is also one of the western states in which canal and irrigation companies own surface water and groundwater rights. These companies sell or issue shares/stock in their company, allowing the owners of these shares to utilize the underlying water. The shareholders are entitled to use a proportional amount of water rights from the system in which they own shares. Aqua’s understanding of the complexities of this water market and our experience with water transactions allow us to provide value to water rights holders. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Nevada’s Division of Water Resources is responsible for the appropriation and reallocation of Nevada’s waters. Nevada, along with most other western states, follows the prior appropriation doctrine. Residents of the state rely on surface water, groundwater and infrastructure designed to transfer and deliver water in this arid climate. Las Vegas, the most populous city in Nevada, is heavily dependent on water supplied from the Colorado River via Lake Mead. In addition to ensuring sustainable supplies of Colorado River water, developing new water supplies and delivery infrastructure are of utmost importance to this region. Aqua understands the state and regional supply/demand situation, its impact on water pricing and has experience transferring water in Nevada. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Wyoming water law is based on the prior appropriation doctrine and water rights are regulated and administered by the State Engineer’s Office. In Wyoming, water rights applications are processed by the State Engineer’s Office and the rights become adjudicated when proof of beneficial use is accepted. If the water rights were issued prior to 1890, the rights are considered “territorial.” Aqua’s understanding of the rules and procedures in Wyoming allows us to provide value to water rights holders and users in the state. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Montana is one of many western states that has instituted the prior appropriation doctrine, and although statehood was achieved in 1889, prior appropriation did not prevail as the doctrine of choice until 1921 (Mettler v. Ames Realty Co). In 1973, the Montana Water Use Act significantly changed water administration in the state. The Act required all water rights existing prior to July 1, 1973, to be finalized through an adjudication process in state courts, called for the establishment of a system for obtaining new or additional water rights, established an authorization system for changing water rights and established a centralized records department, amongst other things. The process of adjudicating the pre-1973 water rights as required by the Montana Water Use Act has proven to be time consuming and continues to this day. Concurrent with this process, new laws and orders continue to shape the state’s water law and administration, with the Montana Water Court and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation playing crucial roles. Aqua’s understanding of the adjudication process, new appropriations, change authorizations and other key aspects of the Montana water market allow us to bring value to Montana water rights owners and those looking to acquire water rights in Montana. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Idaho water law is based upon the prior appropriation doctrine. The state is currently working through numerous adjudications, with the most prominent of these being the Snake River Basin Adjudication. Agricultural water transfers, agriculture-to-urban conversions, industrial requirements, power generation needs, sustaining minimum stream flows and other environmental uses are all components of the Idaho water market. Another component of the water market is the Idaho Water Supply Bank which provides a mechanism for water rights owners to avoid forfeiture for nonuse. Aqua understands the market, the regulatory requirements to transfer water and how to appropriately price a water rights transaction. Our experience in the water market allows us to bring value to water transactions in Idaho. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
California’s annual rainfall varies significantly throughout the state, with most of the precipitation (supply) occurring in the northern portion. The demand for water complicates the balance between supply and demand, as most of the population (demand) is in the southern two-thirds of the state. The result is an elaborate system of water storage and delivery infrastructure that includes aqueducts, pumping stations and reservoirs capable of storing and transporting almost half of the state’s annual water requirements. California has a dual system of water rights, in which both the prior appropriation doctrine and the riparian doctrine apply. The legal and regulatory process of transferring water rights is complex and requires approval from the government regulator responsible for administering the specific type of right being transferred. Aqua has extensive experience within the state buying, selling and leasing different types of water rights and has executed numerous transactions with municipal water providers, private water companies, mutual water companies, agricultural interests, industrial companies and individual water rights holders. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Water rights in Oregon are administered by the Water Resources Department and are based on the prior appropriation doctrine. One of the department’s main goals is to “restore and protect stream flow and watersheds in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of Oregon’s ecosystem, economy and quality of life.” With 114,000 miles of rivers and 1,400 named lakes, this is not an easy task. Based on studies and in-depth analysis, the state has developed mitigation plans in some areas to help combat decreased stream flows. For example, the Deschutes Basin study concluded that ground water and surface water in the Deschutes Ground Water Study Area are directly linked, and that removal of ground water impacts instream water flows. As a result, the Deschutes Basin Ground Water Mitigation Program was developed. The program requires new ground water permittees in the area to mitigate their impacts on instream flows by taking certain prescribed actions. Aqua’s understanding of these local dynamics and how they impact the water markets in the state enables us to provide our customers with superior value. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.
Historically, the state of Washington’s water law was based upon a hybrid system of both riparian and prior appropriation, but in 1917, the state adopted the prior appropriation doctrine. Water rights in the state of Washington are managed by the Department of Ecology. The state of Washington has established a trust program for water rights holders to utilize as a way of avoiding forfeiture, which benefits local water systems. Understanding the rules surrounding water rights and transfers is how Aqua can bring value to water rights holders and users in the state. Aqua Capital Management is interested in new water rights transactions in the state; call or contact us with specific opportunities.