Colorado Water 2012: Justice Greg Hobbs — ‘Love the water well, because it’s everything’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Water law is much more than a code in a courtroom,” Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs said Wednesday. “It’s how people and communities adopt their customs around our most precious resource.”

More than 150 years ago, Congress and courts decided water would not be tied to streamside use and could be moved away from rivers. Agriculture was the primary reason. There are inherent dangers in changing the use of water from the farms that have grown from those principles, said Hobbs, whose son Dan farms in Pueblo County. “If you dry up the land, you get not only noxious weeds, but a noxious economy,” he said.

Hobbs spoke to students and community members as part of a Colorado State University-Pueblo series of lectures as part of Colorado Water 2012…

His topics were wide-ranging, however, giving the audience a taste of how state water law developed as Colorado was settled. He talked about recent Supreme Court decisions — Hobbs writes the water opinions — and made a careful disclaimer that he could not speak about current cases the court may hear.

Still, he had opinions about how the state should approach water law in general. “We need a flexible water law. We need a stable water law. If you want to sell your water, it’s quantified,” Hobbs said. The tendency of cities to want to “monopolize” the resource has to be balanced against the actual need and reasonable projections of growth, he said…

He talked about his experience as a young lawyer in the attorney general’s office defending the state against John Huston’s attempt to claim all of the state’s nontributary groundwater. That case resulted in major legislative changes about how groundwater is defined and opened the way for underground storage. As a justice, he and his colleagues upheld Pueblo District Court Chief Judge Dennis Maes’ ruling that High Plains A&M made speculative claims when it tried to change its shares on the Fort Lyon Canal to broader uses in 2004. The court also limited the reach of Pagosa Springs in two cases within the past five years.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

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