Western Water Study: Montana
Water use is not currently monitored in Montana. Instead, water rights are reported, which does not indicate the actual amount of water that is used, only the amount that is authorized for use. Since a water right may not be exercised during a reporting year, there is no way of knowing how much water was actually diverted or consumptively used, only that a certain volume of water was allocated for use. It is not possible to estimate the actual total amount of water rights for oil and natural gas activities because such activities are not a type of “water right purpose” tracked by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
Potential water right categories where water be used for oil and natural gas activities may include industrial, sale, municipal, and miscellaneous. The volume of water rights in these categories combined accounts for 7.3% of the total water rights allocated. Since oil and natural gas is just a potential subset of these categories, the total allocation for oil and gas natural use is lower than 7.3% but the exact volume is not possible to discern from the available data.