Colorado Water Law. By Travis Hoesli. Colorado Water Law. Unit Objectives Understand who makes water laws in Colorado. Recognize the general laws that govern the use of water in Colorado. Learn the different entities in charge of governing water in Colorado. Federal vs. State.
When dealing with water law in Colorado very few Federal statutes deal with the how much water can be used. Most federal laws that affect water in Colorado have to do with environmental issues.
Most of Colorado Laws that deal with quantity where passed here in Colorado. The main Law that affect Colorado water is the Prior Appropriation Doctrine that was written into the State’s Constitution.
Written into the States Constitution in 1886. It is most commonly referred to as “first in time first in use”. In this doctrine it states that that water belongs to the State of Colorado and law grants the owner of rights the right to uses it for beneficial use. The Doctrine also gives assurance of water users through “ security of title”. Under this doctrine only court decrees can specify location, quantity, use and other conditions. Colorado Water Court was Set up to address water right issues.
Developed in 1969. It classifies ground water into three types tributary, non- tributary and exempt. Tributary water is water that is shallow and affect river flows. Non- tributary is Deep water that is found in ground water Basins. Exempt water is water that comes from well producing 15 gallons or less and supply water to livestock and no more than three homes. Ground water use is only granted by state engineers office
Interstate compacts are agreements between Colorado and states down stream. They not only specify quantity but quality. There are compact agreement for every river that flows out of Colorado.
Though the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts were passed in Federal legislation Colorado has to comply. There are two agencies in Colorado that administer these laws, Colorado Water Pollution Commission and Water Quality Control of Department of Health.
State Engineer’s Office
This is the administrative branch of water law in Colorado. It was developed in 1881 and it controls the administration of water in the state. The engineers office has two division. The Division Engineer enforces water right decrees and give supervision to the water commissioners. The second part of the State Engineers Office is the Division Of Water Resource. It has seven regional office that correspond to the river basins and Water Courts.
There are Seven District Water Courts in Colorado. One in each river basins. The judges hears cases that concern water use changes and issues decrees. The courts systems gives people using water in Colorado due process in competing for water. They are the last step in resolving issues in Colorado.
Colorado Water Conservation Board
This is a board that is made up of seventeen people from all over the state. Their primary role in water law is Conserving water and developing water projects. The Conservation Board is a useful companion to the State Engineers Office.