Current WRP Projects: Project 38

A Treatise on Wyoming Water Law

  • Project Number:  38
  • PI:  Lawrence J. MacDonnell, Professor of Law, University of Wyoming
  • Period:  03/01/2012 – 02/28/2014



This proposal seeks support for student research assistance associated with preparation of a treatise on Wyoming water law. Since the time of Elwood Mead, Wyoming has been a leader in the development of water law in the American West. Wyoming specifically adopted the prior appropriation doctrine in its 1890 Constitution and established a Board of Control and State Engineer to administer water use in the state. The legislature followed up the next year with new legislation putting in place the basic concepts adopted in the Constitution. Significant legislative changes have followed to produce the statutory system now in place in the State. In addition, the Wyoming Supreme Court has decided more than 1,500 cases involving issues of water law. The State Engineer and the Board of Control have adopted regulations and other guidance. Consequently, Wyoming today operates under a comprehensive set of laws, decisions, and administrative rules. Yet there is no single written source that provides a thorough summary and discussion of this legal system. This project is intended to fill this gap.

The treatise will be written by the principal investigator, Lawrence J. MacDonnell. MacDonnell is a Professor at the University of Wyoming College of Law where he teaches courses on water rights law among other subjects. He has written widely on issues of western water law, including books, law review articles, and other publications. Since joining the faculty at the College of Law in 2009, MacDonnell has researched Wyoming water law and has taught classes that provide summaries of this law. He has published an article on Wyoming law related to administration of surface and ground water uses and was co-author of a report, sponsored by the Wyoming Water Research Program, considering ways Wyoming water law might enable temporary use of water rights for instream flow purposes.

Find us on Instagram (Link opens a new window)Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window)Find us on Twitter (Link opens a new window)Find us on LinkedIn (Link opens a new window)Find us on YouTube (Link opens a new window)