Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Montana officials plan to rewrite the rules that allowed tens of thousands of rural homes to be built without water permits.

Tom Schultz heads the water resources division with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

He said Wednesday the agency will begin formulating new water rights rules for rural subdivisions within eight months. It could be an additional six months before they are final.

Rural homes can be built in Montana without a water permit if they have their own well.

But ranchers, conservation groups and local officials in Western Montana say that with more than 70,000 homes exempted from getting permits over the last several decades, water resources are being strained beyond their capacity.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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