2012 Colorado November elections: Two ballot issues will be aimed at instituting a ‘public trust doctrine’ for the ownership of water


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Phillip Doe of Littleton and Richard Hamilton of Fairplay have proposed two ballot measures for next year’s election that are designed to institute a “public trust doctrine” on the ownership of water in the state. That means if any Coloradan believes water isn’t being used properly anywhere in the state, that person would have legal standing to sue water users, including cities, water-conservation districts, or the state…

Douglas Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress, said the idea would turn water law on its head. He said it would force the Legislature to redo 150 years worth of Colorado water law, and the courts to rehear more than 150,000 water-rights decrees. “The Constitution says water is the property of the people, subject to appropriation,” Kemper said. “The general concept of the public trust doctrine says … you may have this legal piece of paper that has a decree, but those decrees should be always considered to have been subject to a great public need. That means each would be subject to modification.” As a result, anyone’s water decree could be re-examined at any time, meaning some users could lose their water rights, he said.

More water law coverage here.

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