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Upper Colorado River Basin Current Policy and Issues Utah Division of Water Rights September 2009. Objectives. Review Utah’s apportionment & current use Approved yet undeveloped applications Current water management guidelines

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Upper Colorado River Basin

Current Policy and Issues

Utah Division of Water Rights

September 2009

  • Review Utah’s apportionment & current use
  • Approved yet undeveloped applications
  • Current water management guidelines
  • Unapproved applications
  • Water management issues
  • Future directions



Water Rights








Price *

* Moab



Upper Colorado River

Entitlement &

Current Depletions

Utah’s Apportionment (23%) 1,369,000 AF

Current Depletion 1,007,500 AF

Remaining Depletion 361,500 AF

estimated depletion 2009 units 1000 acre feet source division of water resources
Estimated Depletion – 2009Units – 1000 Acre FeetSource: Division of Water Resources
  • Agriculture/stock 591.4
  • Municipal/Domestic 25.3
  • Power/Industrial 44.6
  • Exports/Imports 206.9
  • Reservoir Evaporation 19.3
  • Evaporation CRSP Res. 120.0 TOTAL 1007.5

Potential Depletion

Approved Applications (Undeveloped)

Applicant Quantity (Ac Ft)

San Juan County WCD 30,000

Central Utah WCD 29,500

Board of W R (et al) 158,000*

Wayne County WCD 50,000*

Kane County WCD 30,000

Sanpete WCD 5,600

Uintah County WCD 5,000

Navajo Nation ? 80,000

Ute Tribe ? 105,000

  TOTAL 493,100


There is no argument that the

Navajo Nation have water rights,

Navajo Nation

Water Rights

the question is how much?


State Law on Undeveloped Applications

    The state engineer shall consider the holding of an approved application by a public water supplier or a wholesale electrical cooperative to meet the reasonable future water or electricity requirements of the public to be reasonable and due diligence in completing the appropriation for the purposes of this section for 50 years from the date on which the application is approved. U.C. 73-3-12(2)(h)

state law after 50 years
State Law AFTER 50 Years

The state engineer may extend the time in which the applicant shall comply with Subsection (2)(a) by setting a date after 50 years from the day on which the application is approved if the applicant:is a public water supplier; or a wholesale electrical cooperative; and provides information that shows the water applied for in the application is needed to meet the reasonable future requirements of the public. The information provided by a public water supplier shall be in accordance with the criteria listed in Subsection 73-1-4(2)(f).

U.C. 73-3-12(4)(b)

law after 50 years cont
Law AFTER 50 Years (cont)

The state engineer shall extend the time in which to file proof by setting a reasonable date after 50 years from the day on which the application is approved if the applicant meets the requirements in Subsection (4)(b); and has constructedworks to apply the water to beneficial use or made substantial expenditures to construct the works.

U.C. 73-3-12(4)(c)

future water requirement of public
Future Water Requirement of Public

The reasonable future water requirement of the public is the amount of water needed in the next 40 years by the persons within the public water supplier's projected service area based on projected population growth or other water use demand. A community water system's projected service area is the area served by the community water system's distribution facilities; and expands as the community water system expands the distribution facilities in accordance with Title 19, Chapter 4, Safe Drinking Water Act.

U.C. 73-1-4(2)(f)


Current Water Management Guidelines

March 1990

With continued emphasis on development of water within the Colorado River Basin and in an effort to better define and utilize Utah’s allocated portion of the river flow, as set forth in the Upper Colorado River Compact, the following policy is established for the Upper Colorado River Drainage:

1 application to appropriate water
1. Application to Appropriate Water
  • Limited to - 1 family 1 acre irrigation & 10 head stock
  • 5 years to develop
  • Extension – reasonable cause of delay
2 moderate flow applications
2. Moderate Flow Applications
  • Up to 0.25 cfs
  • Consider in priority order within each subdrainage area
  • 5 years to develop
  • Extensions - substantial evidence of reasonable cause for delay
3 large applications
3. Large Applications
  • Over 0.25 cfs
  • Priority basis within Utah’s apportionment under the Upper Colorado River Compact
  • Non-priority order for fixed time or temporary approval
  • Potential depletion of each application must be defined

Current Water Appropriation Guidelines (cont’d)

4) Change Applications will be considered on their individual merits.  Changes involving amounts greater than 0.25 cfs flow will require that the depletion be defined.

 5) Change/Exchange Applications will be required for water development in the fully appropriated drainages.

 6) Non-consumptive applications may be considered in a non-priority order based on their individual merits and water availability.  This pertains to all areas of the Upper Colorado River Drainage Area in Utah.

unapproved application to appropriate water
Unapproved Application to Appropriate Water
  • Recent actions Letter to determine interest ~ 1400
  • 55% Responded ¾ still interested ¼ not interested
  • Other 45% - applicant / address
  • SE Action to remove from further consideration (820 applications)
Our account on the Colorado River is overdrawn on paper!However, we have 360,000 AF unused.* Checking Account Analogy *
  • Will the checks ever be cashed?
  • How long do you allow checks to be outstanding?
  • What can we do that will allow us to realize full benefit from our assets?
  • Upper Colorado River Basin is over appropriated !
  • Administering approved yet undeveloped applications after 50 years
  • Plenty of water in the system but it may not all be developable on the Green River
fixed time applications
Fixed Time Applications

An application to appropriate water for industrial, power, mining development, manufacturing purposes, agriculture, or municipal purposes may be approved for a specific and certain period from the time the water is placed to beneficial use under the application, but in no event may an application be granted for a period of time less than that ordinarily needed to satisfy the essential and primary purpose of the application or until the water is no longer available as determined by the state engineer. U.C. 73-3-8(2)

fixed time processing
Fixed Time Processing
  • Same process as other applications
  • Fixed time expiration (can be extended)
  • Simplifying
    • No proof deadline or lapsing
    • Notice mailed for fixed time expiration date
    • Annual use reporting required
federal reserved rights
Federal Reserved Rights
  • Implied in Reservation
  • Accomplish Reservation Purposes
  • Minimum Amount
  • Priority is date of Reservation
  • Does not follow Prior Appropriation
settlement agreements
Settlement Agreements
  • Quantify reserved water rights

Administrative Uses

Insitu Uses

  • Address intervening existing state rights
  • Address protection (resource preservation)
  • Convert state applications to reserved right
  • Bring all rights under state administration
  • Implemented through general determination
arches national park
Arches National Park
  • Issues
    • Water for Campgrounds etc
    • Natural flows through park
    • Springs in Courthouse wash
    • Hanging gardens on Salt Creek
arches solution
Arches Solution
  • Agreement template from Natural Bridges
  • Administrative Uses (60 acft depletion)
  • Subordinate to existing rights (except Dalton)
  • Limit on reservoirs upstream
  • Limits on upstream new GW appropriation
  • No impact showing for Courthouse Wash