From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):
When the state pulls the trigger on groundwater rules and regulations, many Valley irrigators could be shut down. Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division 3 Craig Cotten reported during the Rio Grande Water Conservation District’s quarterly meeting on Tuesday that those rules are very close to being completed. State Engineer Dick Wolfe has been working with a large advisory group for the better part of two years to develop regulations that governing groundwater use in the Rio Grande Basin. Well irrigators who are not part of a water management sub-district or who have not completed individual augmentation plans may find themselves out of business when the rules go into effect and the state begins shutting down wells.
Currently, one water management sub-district of the sponsoring Rio Grande Water Conservation District is on appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court, while five or six other sub-districts throughout the Valley are in various stages of development. Because it appears the state’s rules could be in place before the sub-districts, the state engineer’s office asked legislators like State Senator Gail Schwartz and State Representative Ed Vigil to carry legislation adding language to existing legislation that would give folks within a pending sub-district some protection when the bullets start flying.
“We are going to have a situation, I think, where we will have rules and regulations in place. Those rules and regulations are in draft form right now and the rules and regulations will go into effect May 2012,” Cotten said. “If those rules and regulations go into effect we will have sub-districts that are in court but not through the process, so those people in those sub-districts will be stuck … They could be caught in a position where they are going to be shut down and they don’t have any ability to apply for a substitute supply plan.” He said without an augmentation plan, those folks would have to shut their wells off. Cotten explained that the state has had legislation for nearly a decade that provides for temporary or emergency substitute water supply plans to be approved while an official augmentation plan is pending with the courts. “It allows somebody to go forward and do what they are planning on doing, replace their water, as they wait on the court case to get done,” Cotten explained. He said the statute in place right now provides for several different situations but does not specifically mention sub-districts because it was enacted before the Valley began developing water management sub-districts.