The mission of the North Dakota Water Resource Districts Association is to support and help water managers achieve wise and effective water resource management in North Dakota. The North Dakota Water Resources Districts Association consists of 63 Water Resource Districts, which includes at least one Water Resource District in every county, and in some counties more than one.
Creation of Water Resource Districts
The function of government in the area of water management is critically important. Local groups and local governments often rely on the state and federal government to provide assistance beyond the scope of their ability or jurisdiction. State and federal governmental agencies in turn rely on effective local governments for sponsorship or implementation of federal programs and projects.
In the area of water management, the need for a local unit of government to be responsible for water management and water development was recognized when enabling legislation for water conservation districts was first enacted in 1935. (S.L. 1935, Chapter 228). Initially, a water conservation district could be established only by order of the State Water Conservation Commission, upon receipt of a petition signed by any county, city, village, or township, or by 50 percent of the freeholders within the proposed district.
The initial water management laws were codified as Chapter 61-16 of the NDCC. Chapter 61-16 remained virtually unchanged until 1957, when the Legislature enacted a comprehensive reform of water management statutes. The name for local water resource districts was changed from “water conservation district” to “Water Conservation and Flood Control District”, but the procedures for creation were similar. The State Water Conservation Commission continued to have the authority to create a district and establish the boundaries upon receipt of a proper petition.
In 1973, the Legislature again changed the name, this time to “water management district”, and decided that all land in North Dakota should be in a “water management district”.
In 1981, the Legislature enacted another comprehensive reform of water management laws, and in so doing expanded the powers and authorities of water resource districts, and made other changes designed to improve the effectiveness of water resource districts. The Legislature again changed the name, this time to “water resource districts”.
In addition to the initial enabling legislation for water resource districts in 1935, and the major revisions and expansion in 1957 and 1981, the Legislature has made a few changes to the statutes pertaining to water resource districts each legislative session.
The evolution of water resource districts has resulted in a water resource district in every county in North Dakota. In a few counties, more than one water resource district exists. Water resource districts have extensive duties, authorities, and responsibilities, and are facing increasing problems and issues.
Water resource districts are North Dakota’s has local political subdivisions assigned to work towards coordinated and comprehensive management of the state’s water resources at the local level.
Joint Water Resource Boards
Even though the Legislature did not adopt the proposal to reorganize water resource districts along watershed boundaries, it did authorize water resource districts to create joint water resource boards to address water management issues within hydrologic boundaries. Water resource districts in West River, Souris River, Devils Lake, and Red River, and James River have all created joint water boards. The authority for individual water resource districts to join together as joint boards is very useful because it allows water resource districts to do together what they could not do alone.
The following joint water resource district boards have been created in North Dakota, some being more active than others:
1. Red River Joint Board
2. Devils Lake Joint Board
3. West River Joint Board
4. Missouri River Joint Board
5. Souris River Joint Board
6. Rocky Run Joint Board
7. Upper Sheyenne River Joint Board
8. James River Joint Board