From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:
The state’s courts have ruled that farmers who take water from underground wells must replace what they take, so that there’s enough water left for holders of senior water rights. That’s been difficult in dry conditions.
Weld County commissioners this month issued a disaster declaration due to drought conditions and asked Hickenlooper to issue an executive order easing restrictions on pumping. Attorneys with the state attorney general’s office said in an informal memo Monday that Hickenlooper doesn’t have that authority. They said Hickenlooper can suspend state laws and rules but not judicial orders, judgments or decrees. They also said an order like one Weld County is seeking could create conflicts with Colorado water law.
From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar/Scott Rochat):
[Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway] said Hickenlooper produced a legal memorandum from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office saying the governor didn’t have the power to permit the resumption of pumping from the aquifer below farmland in the South Platte River Basin. “We’re disappointed,” said Conway, the chairman of Weld’s Board of County Commissioners.
Based on legal research by Weld County Attorney Bruce Barker, Conway said the commissioners “respectfully disagree” with the memo that deputy attorney general Casey Shpall and first assistant attorney general John Cyran sent to James Eklund, Hickenlooper’s deputy legal counsel.
Hickenlooper and his water adviser, former Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp, delivered the bad news in person to the Weld commissioners Tuesday morning. The commissioners met with the governor and his staff in Denver on Thursday and participated in a telephone conference call with members of Hickenlooper’s staff last Friday. Hickenlooper said in a Tuesday afternoon statement, “Even if we could legally pump groundwater to use for irrigation and reduce water in basements, that water belongs to someone else downstream.”
More South Platte River basin coverage here.