2012 Colorado November Election: The Colorado Water Congress is attempting to galvanize opposition to initiatives 3 and 45

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Check out this blog post from the Your Colorado Water Blog. From the post:

These Initiatives, introduced by Phil Doe of Littleton and Richard Hamilton of Fairplay, aim to amend the state constitution in a way that would dramatically change water management in Colorado.

Here’s another article written by Jason Mumm that is running on the Stepwise Utility Advisors website. Here’s an excerpt:

The supporters of the public trust initiatives believe the 100+ year -old system of prior appropriation has worked against the public’s interests. The proposed initiatives would replace the existing process with one that would enable the state to determine what uses of water are in the beneficial public good, and which ones are not. The doctrine would appear to apply to all such uses, whether water rights were adjudicated in the past already, or not. In other words, the amendments, if approved, would cause all existing water rights in the state to immediately fall under a new review guided by the public trust doctrine. The Colorado Water Congress, opposes the initiatives for this reason.

No doubt that reviewing all of the state’s existing water rights and potentially reallocating them could be extremely chaotic, especially in a state where water resources are scarce. The current legal structure is a major expense in an of itself. The direct legal costs are astounding, but if one considers the amount of time and resources consumed from all parties, the cost is even higher. The public trust doctrine is used in other states and in the examples that we’ve seen, it tends to work reasonably well and appears to require far fewer resources of our municipal utility clients. What you find in those states that use some kind of public trust doctrine is an approach to water utility management much more focused on the facilities (e.g. treatment, pipes, etc.) than on acquiring and maintaining water rights for the source of supply. It’s a focus toward infrastructure and service, rather than natural resource management.

There are elements of a public trust approach that we like, but the proposed initiatives are fatally flawed because they fail to provide a means to equitably transition from one structure to another. Colorado’s legal system evolved from water scarcity. Within that structure is a very competitive market that is constantly determining the value of water rights and thus informing decisions of how water is used.

Thanks for posting the link in the comments, Mr. Mumm.

More 2012 Colorado November Election coverage here.

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