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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.


Division 1 rules/settlement

Posted April 11, 2013

On March 23, 2013, the Division 1 Water Court approved and entered the State Engineer’s final rules for measurement of tributary ground water diversions by wells in Water Division 1 (comprising the South Platte River basin).  These rules are similar to the State’s first well measurement rules, which were implemented for the Arkansas River basin in 1994 (and amended effective 2006).  In general, tributary wells in the South Platte River basin must be equipped with a certified Totalizing Flow Meter that is certified as accurate every four years.  Certain users may obtain a variance to use an alternate method that calculates water diversions based on the amount of electrical power used by the well.  White & Jankowski was successful in obtaining provisions that provide where decree terms are inconsistent or contrary to the well measurement rules, the terms and conditions approved by the water court will control.  This ensures that the terms approved by the water court will continue to govern the operation of wells, preserving the appropriate balance between water court and State Engineer authority.  First Assistant Attorney General John Cyran listened to the concerns of various water users regarding the rules and was ultimately able to obtain agreement and avoid the need for a trial on the rules.  John will begin work as a Referee in the Division 1 Water Court this summer.  Congratulations John!

CWCB instream flow water rights on the Colorado River — milestone

Posted March 29, 2013

On March 26, 2013, (Senior) Water Judge Ossola (Division 5) entered three decrees that provided the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) with instream flows on the main stem of the Colorado River.  Instream flows are a specific type of water right held by the CWCB that allows water to remain in a stream, without any diversion, in order to help preserve the natural environment to a reasonable degree―often referred to as “minimum” flows.

With the entry of these decrees, a 70-mile stretch of the Colorado River from the Blue River to the Eagle River is protected by contiguous instream flow decrees.  The first segment covers the Colorado River from the Blue River to the Piney River; the second segment extends from Piney River to Cabin Creek; and, the third segment extends from Cabin Creek to the Eagle River, which meets the Colorado River just past Gypsum.  Year-round flows are protected in a range from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) up to 900 cfs.  

Entry of these decrees marks the early attainment of a milestone in the Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group Management Plan to provide long-term protection measures for the recreational fishing “outstanding remarkable value” on this important stretch of the Colorado River as part of the BLM’s Resource Management Plan.  These decrees will also help preserve and improve proposed environmental flows of water jointly being sought by Grand County, CWCB and Denver Water, by “attaching” that water to CWCB’s instream flow rights through this reach.  Importantly, these decrees highlight how a diverse group of interested parties successfully collaborated in order to protect Colorado’s water resources for non-consumptive uses while safeguarding traditional water rights.

Update on Division 3 ground water rules and regulations

Posted March 14, 2013

The Colorado State Engineer has recently updated the status of rules and regulations for use of wells in Water Division No. 3 (Rio Grande Basin).  Currently, the Colorado Division of Water Resources is updating the Rio Grande Decision Support System, which is the ground water model used to determine how much water from well pumping in various areas of the San Luis Valley must be replaced to prevent injury to senior surface rights.  The update of the Rio Grande Decision Support System is anticipated to be completed in April.  Once the update is complete, the ground water rules advisory committee will begin meeting again to complete the rules and regulations.  Once the rules and regulations are completed, they must be submitted to the Water Division No. 3 Water Court for final adoption.  At that time, opposers will have the opportunity to oppose adoption of the rules.  Once the rules are adopted by the water court, well users in the San Luis Valley must either replace depletions from their wells through a court-approved augmentation plan or substitute water supply plan, or in the alternative, enroll their well in a sub-district of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District that will replace the well depletions.  The first-subdistrict has been approved to replace depletions from wells in the Closed Basin portion of the San Luis Valley, and subsequent sub-districts covering other areas of the Valley are currently in the process of formation.  Read the Alamosa Valley Courier article here.   

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