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Water Blog

A blog that focuses on legal developments affecting the water community in Colorado and other western states.  We also post news about water rights, water quality, and natural resources.  If you have a suggestion for a post, please contact us.

  

Denver Water signs WISE agreement

Posted September 6, 2013

On August 14th, the City and County of Denver, acting by and through its Board of Water Commissioners (Denver Water) approved the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) Partnership Agreement with the City of Aurora (Aurora) and the South Metro WISE Authority (Authority).  The Authority is comprised of ten governmental or quasi-governmental water providers.  Authority members are also members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA); participating members include the Town of Castle Rock, Dominion Water & Sanitation District, Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, Cottonwood Water & Sanitation District, Pinery Water and Wastewater District, Centennial Water & Sanitation District, Rangeview Metropolitan District, Parker Water & Sanitation District, Meridian Metropolitan District, and Inverness Water & Sanitation District. 

The WISE Partnership Agreement (Agreement) paves the way for Denver Water to deliver treated water to Denver’s southern suburbs.  Approval confirms the terms of a regional water supply project between Denver Water, Aurora, and the Authority.  The project will promote efficient and cost-effective water supply sharing.  Under the terms of the agreement, Denver Water will provide reusable return flows, which originate on the West Slope; the Authority will receive a permanent supply of water; Aurora will allow the use of its Prairie Waters Project for periodic storage and periodic available water supplies.  A number of sub-agreements and memoranda of understanding formalize the terms of these arrangements.  The WISE Partnership was initiated in 2008 as part of a longer-term plan to combine water supplies in the Greater Denver Area.  Water will be delivered in phases, starting in 2016.


Senate Bill 13-041 takes effect tomorrow

Posted August 6, 2013

Colorado Senate Bill 13-041 (“Concerning the Protection of Stored Water, and, in Connection Therewith, Preserving Supplies for Drought and Long-Term Needs”) takes effect on August 7, 2013.  This bill reverses the holdings of Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District v. Wolfe, 255 P.3d 1108 (Colo. 2011).  The bill explains that in Yampa, the Supreme Court of Colorado “held that the storage of water is not a beneficial use, at least where flood control and fire or drought protection are not the stated uses of the water, and that to perfect a conditional storage right, the water must be released from storage and put to beneficial use.  Further, an applicant must show that is has exhausted its absolute storage rights before its conditional storage rights can be perfected.”

The bill explicitly reverses the court’s holdings.  In short, the bill expands the definition of “beneficial use” to include the impoundment of water for firefighting or storage for any decreed purpose.  Furthermore, the bill explains that an applicant does not have to demonstrate that all existing absolute decreed water rights that are part of an integrated system have been utilized to their full extent in order to establish the need to exercise a conditional water storage right or to make it absolute.  In addition, carrying water over in storage from one year to another is not grounds for a determination of abandonment.  Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on April 8, 2013.


The Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership: protecting people, forests, and water resources

Posted July 25, 2013

The U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture just launched a pilot watershed management project in northern Colorado, the headwaters of the Colorado-Big Thompson River water system.  The goal of the project is to reduce the risk of wildfire and associated fire damage to watersheds, thereby protecting forests, drinking water, and water infrastructure. 

Last week, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, signed a Memorandum of Understanding at Horsetooth Reservoir.  The agreement is known as the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership (Partnership) and is part of the President’s Climate Action Plan.  It is a federal, local, and private partnership.  Federal agencies will work with local water users to identify and mitigate the risks of wildfire to watersheds. 

The Partnership will make it easier for the two federal agencies to thin forests and prescribe burns.  In addition, the Partnership provides for the rehabilitation of scorched areas by planting trees and improving forest habitat.  The Partnership’s members hope to improve western forest resilience, protect water quality, safeguard drinking water supplies, and reduce the potential for catastrophic damage from wildfires.  Secretary Jewell stated that the Partnership “can serve as a model for the West when it comes to collaborative and targeted fire threat reduction and restoration efforts to protect our critical water supplies” in the face of drier, hotter weather. 

The U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture are also working with state and local stakeholders to formalize additional partnerships in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Washington, and California watersheds.


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