Here’s a historical look at the development of Colorado water law, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Colorado water law was forged in the furnace of the Civil War, and had less to do with the discovery of minerals in the mountains than to support the farmers who were feeding the miners.
“The mineral wealth brought people to Colorado,” said Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs, recounting the gold rush of 1859 on Friday at the annual meeting of the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance at the Pueblo Convention Center. “The persons who remained were the farmers who dug the ditches to feed the miners. The cities grew out from the ditches.”
Hobbs, who has been a justice since 1996, writes most of the water case opinions for the court and was an accomplished water and natural resources lawyer before joining the bench. The justice wove a colorful tale of the culture of the nation in 1861, when Colorado water law had its genesis – 15 years ahead of statehood.