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Closeup of river rock and water

Conservation > Fisheries Management > Habitat Water Management

FWP is committed to protecting the aquatic habitats in Montana and that work is accomplished, in part, with careful attention to water management across the state.


Rivers with active junior water right calls

Water Rights Call Process

Conditions and Low Flow Responses

Want to check your current conditions on your favorite river? Are there any low flow conditions that are restricting or limiting fishing opportunities? How does FWP respond to periods of low stream flow or drought conditions? What can you do when stream flow get low or stream temperatures get warm? Examine examples of existing community lead low flow / drought plans.


Current Stream Flows

For more information, and to check the conditions on your favorite fishing streams, please use the links below.

The data and data access provided on the above web links were developed and are maintained by the United State Geological Survey's Montana Water Resources Office. Most of these gage sites and the web page access to the data are paid for under the Survey's cooperative program. Under this program the federal government and the cooperator, such as FWP, share the costs associated with installing, monitoring and marinating the gage and associated data. USGS.



Low stream flow conditions and related high temperatures and drought clearly effect fish habitat and fish health. Learn about how FWP manages its resources as well as how and where you can safely recreate during drought season: Drought in Montana

Instream Flows

Managing and protecting stream flow condition is part of FWP fishery management mission. Water management, water monitoring and water conservation, stream restoration and water rights are all components of this effort. Water right acquisition and water right administration are less understood activities and the information below will provide additional insight into this aspect of fishery management.

Learn more

Stream Flow Protection

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks uses multiple tools to enforce or enhance the management of water rights for instream flows. Some are strict and formal methods of administration. Others are more informal actions relying heavily on voluntary or cooperative actions between water users.

Tools for water right administration include:

  • Court appointed Water Commissioners,

  • Ditch Riders,

  • "Making a Call", and

  • Drought Planning.

Montana water law is based upon the theory of "prior appropriation". Under this theory water rights and uses are rank against one another. That ranking, and in Montana the only ranking between water right is it date of development or priority date. Thus priority between water rights and water uses is solely determined as "first in right is first in time".

Under this system each water right is to be limited to the level of use and period of use as of the time that the water right was first developed. Every water right holder has a right to expect the conditions on the stream, the source of supply, to be the same as they were the day their water right was created. Thus in times of shortage a water user can require all water users to a) limit their use to the level on the date it was developed and b) to have all junior (water rights developed after theirs) reduce or shut-off there diversion until the senior water rights are satisfied.

Instream flow water rights are administered, like all other water rights, under their respective priorities.

FWP Dewatering Concern Areas