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Instream flow refers to water flowing in streams. An instream flow water right refers to the legal means to protect water in streams for the benefit of fish based on the same laws used for other kinds of water rights. Because water is the most important part of the habitat needed to manage fish, securing instream flow water rights is a critically important habitat management practice. It’s one of the most effective ones too because once an instream flow right has been obtained it lasts forever without any need for future repair or maintenance costs.
However, it wasn't until 1986 that legislation was passed extending the same opportunity to manage water in stream channels for fish as had been allowed for uses of water out of the stream. Today we have filed applications for instream flow water rights on 130 stream segments. We’re continuing to file new instream flow applications every year, but even after more than a quarter century of work, we’ve still protected flow in just over 2 percent of all stream miles in the state. We’ll never seek instream flow rights on every stream, but there are still many places where filings are needed. Water belongs to all of us so it’s only proper to use a small portion to support the fisheries we all own as well.