From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):
During a Weld County drought tour that included stops in Greeley and the LaSalle and Gilcrest areas, Hickenlooper said he favors changes to the state’s water court system, stating that “we’ve let the system run amuck,” and referred to water court costs as “insane.”
Hickenlooper further stressed that he wants all sides to come together to find ways for producers to legally use some of the region’s abundant underground aquifer.
“Any time you try to change water law, there’s huge pushback,” he said. “But I think it can be done.”[…]
Hickenlooper and the producers with whom he spoke all said they hope that an ongoing groundwater study in the South Platte River Basin — being conducted by the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University — will provide some of the answers that can lead to changes and solve some of the issues producers face…
Hickenlooper reminded farmers he doesn’t have the authority to allow the curtailed groundwater wells to pump out of priority. Hickenlooper said that, according to the state’s attorney general, he lacks the power to override the prior-appropriations system that’s been in place in Colorado for more than 100 years. Hickenlooper also said a number of water attorneys have told him that if he allowed the wells to pump out of priority, the state would face millions of dollars in lawsuits.
Downstream water users also raised concerns this summer about the push to allow the Weld County groundwater wells to pump — fearing it would prevent them from getting the surface flows to which they’re entitled. Farmers told Hickenlooper the 30 days of well-pumping they were requesting this summer would have used less than 1 percent of the groundwater in the aquifer — which some estimate is more than 10 million acre feet. All of the points made led Hickenlooper to discuss the need for more knowledge of the aquifer and cooperation on all sides moving forward.
“Smart people willing to compromise can figure this stuff out,” he stated.