Colorado water law includes an anti-speculation doctrine. Here’s a short explanation from a Coyote Gulch reader:
The doctrine basically says water may not be held for future sale. The Colorado Constitution says no water right will be denied, if the water is put to beneficial use. The one exception to this is referred to as the Great and Growing Cities Doctrine (c. 1916) that says cities can appropriate (or purchase water rights in a change case) water for future needs.
An individual or corporation cannot claim or buy water without an immediate or historic beneficial use.
So that is the conundrum that Aaron Million is in: He hasn’t named any customers for the water that he plans to deliver from the Green River so many are pointing the speculator finger at him and his proposed project. He has frightened off some potential customers by also being secretive about the eventual cost of the water.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of completing an environmental impact statement for the project but needs to know where the water will be put to beneficial use in order to evaluate the impacts. Million has said that he will provide the names of users in Wyoming and Colorado, “…but is not in a position to provide them yet,” according to this report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. More from the article:
“I think the Corps is trying to shore up its information and narrow down the focus of the project so it can develop alternatives,” Million said. “Obviously, we’re going to do everything we can to cooperate. The project’s on a positive path.” Rena Brand, regulatory specialist for the Corps, had a similar comment.
“In order to define the need, the Corps must understand who the water users are and verify their specific needs for water,” Brand said. “Water users could be cities, irrigation districts or industries.”[…]
The Colorado Water Conservation Board estimates the state has 440,000-1.4 million acre-feet of water to develop under the [Colorado River Compact and Upper Colorado River Compact], but is investigating things like the location and timing of flows. Million’s project would minimize elevation changes as it bypasses the Colorado Rockies and moves water along existing utility corridors.
There is strong opposition to the project in Wyoming. “I’m not sure they have adequate definition of the need for the project to even do the analysis,” Gov. Dave Freudenthal said last week. “I think this is just a rich guy who just wants to move water.”
Million countered that Freudenthal’s opposition was not expected, and said he is ignoring possible benefits to the state.
There is also interest by others in the state in the concept. The CWCB has included it in a study of possible water supply alternatives, and the South Metro Water Supply Authority has been looking at a similar alternative [Colorado-Wyoming Coalition] in its long-range planning.