Interbasin Compact Committee: Draft Nonconsumptive Toolbox Request for Public Comment

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From email from the IBCC (Becky Mitchell):

Below is the link to the Draft Nonconsumptive Toolbox.

The IBCC requested that CWCB develop a toolbox to help roundtables incorporate nonconsumptive needs into their Basin Implementation Plans. This is a resource document for the roundtables and other stakeholders, and brings many documents and technical work together in one place.

The draft report is available online here: http://cwcbweblink.state.co.us/weblink/0/doc/170187/Electronic.aspx?searchid=ee0c3336-ec13-43aa-8b81-460b87f065af

The report has been reviewed by CWCB staff and the IBCC subcommittee, which includes a diverse set of environmental, municipal, and agricultural interests, and is now available for public comment.

Please provide your comments by close of business Monday, May 20th to IBC@state.co.us.

As directed by the CWCB Board, staff will review the document with the roundtable chairs, and be available upon request to present the draft document to basin roundtables. Once the document is finalized, staff will present it along with the technical platform and framework for the consumptive portion of the basin implementation plans to each of the roundtables.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

‘Watershed restoration funding back on track in Colorado’ — Bob Berwyn

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Persistence by Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet paid off this week, as the U.S. Senate passed legislation that includes $65.5 million to help communities like El Paso County and Larimer County repair watersheds damaged in last summer’s wildfires. Udall said it was a major victory for Colorado, with Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program funds also included in the Continuing Resolution that passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

The money will help Colorado communities affected by the devastating High Park and Waldo Canyon fires to deal with degraded water quality, high flooding risk and eroded watersheds…

The Emergency Watershed Protection program supports efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. Udall and Bennet have led the fight to secure funds since the devastating 2012 wildfire season. As a result of the historic High Park Fire in northern Colorado, the area supplying drinking water to communities including Greeley and Fort Collins has a high risk of flooding, road washouts and water quality degradation.

Similarly, in Colorado Springs, utility infrastructure was badly damaged in the wake of last year’s wildfire season.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):

The summer monsoon season approaches, and 18,247 acres of blackened earth waits, ready to unleash a fury that could prove more damaging than the fire that killed two people and destroyed nearly 350 homes. Experts agree: One fast, hard rainstorm over the Waldo Canyon burn scar could send a torrent downhill, taking houses, businesses, roads, utility lines and lives.

It could come in the afternoon, rushing toward crowds of tourists in downtown Manitou Springs. It could come in the middle of the night, catching Pleasant Valley neighborhood residents as they sleep.

Some who watched the Waldo Canyon Fire approach through their windows may feel they know the drill: Pack your bags and wait for the knock on the door. But most will receive no such direct warning in a flood evacuation. In fact, those who have studied our risk say they are struggling to relay a single, essential message: You’re on your own this time around, and you’d better be ready.

Carol Ekarius, executive director of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, has directed fire and flood recovery work for the 2002 Hayman Fire and other large burns. She’s seen her share of devastating floods. Still, in terms of flood risk, she calls Waldo “the scariest fire in the country.”

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The U.S. Senate passed legislation Wednesday containing $65.5 million in emergency watershed protection — a step closer to getting that money to communities in need, including Larimer County for mulching and seeding ground charred by the 2012 wildfire.

The U.S. House version of the legislation allocated $48 million for emergency watershed protection, so a committee from both arms of government must meet and agree on a number somewhere in that range, then President Barack Obama must sign the bill.

Then the money can start funneling into the communities in need and work can begin.

Realistically, work is four to six weeks out because of the process, said Todd Boldt, resource specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Officials expect about $20 million to come to Colorado, and about half of that to Larimer County. The money will go to mulching and seeding hillsides and slopes that were burned by the High Park fire as well as other measures to reduce the impacts of rain on the slopes.

From The Denver Post (Allison Sherry):

While local officials will still have to compete for the money, it is assumed the state’s needs for forest and water storage repair are stark enough to warrant grants.

“It’s really good news for El Paso and Larimer County and the whole state,” said El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark on Wednesday. Clark has personally flown to DC several times to lobby on behalf of her county, which was devastated by the Waldo Canyon Fire last year. “We don’t know exactly how much were going to get on this.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, said he was proud of the state delegation’s bipartisan effort to get the money. “I’m grateful for the efforts of our state’s delegation, which worked together in this fight to secure these critical funds for Colorado,” he said, in a statement. “Passing this bill … will allow these communities to take the next step to complete the recovery process. These funds will help restore our land and repair critical infrastructure to help prevent larger costs and bigger problems down the road.”

2013 Colorado legislation: SB13-183 passes out of the state senate #coleg

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Bill Vogrin):

Under SB 183, HOAs would not be able to fine homeowners whose lawns die because they observe watering restrictions, which are anticipated this summer amid the current drought. It also overrides any covenants that demand water-guzzling turf lawns and ban xeriscape landscaping methods featuring drought-tolerant plants. The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Forecast news: Mountain snow, valley rain in western Colorado today #codrought #cowx

From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

A storm system and associated cold front will move through the region today, bringing mountain snow and valley rain through this evening. Some isolated thunderstorms are possible. Storm total snowfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches with locally higher amounts are expected in the western Colorado mountains, with 1 to 3 in the Gunnison basin. 3 to 5 inches can be expected near Cerro Summit. Mainly rain will occur in valleys below 8000 ft, with the exception of some northern Colorado valleys where snow levels will be at valley bottoms this morning, with little accumulation expected. After a brief break tonight into Friday morning, a colder storm system will move through the area Friday evening through Saturday. Unsettled conditions look to remain over the area through early next week, with a return to unseasonably cool temperatures.

Drought/snowpack news: Streamflow in the Arkansas and Colorado rivers expected to be 56% of avg this season #codrought

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The winter water storage program on the Arkansas River hit a record low this season. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The winter water storage program hit its lowest level since its inception in the 1970s, as drought continues in the Arkansas River basin. The winter water program, which began Nov. 15 and ended Friday, stored only 67,167 acre-feet, less than half of average and 90 percent of the 2002-03 total, according to the final accounting released Tuesday. That’s more bad news for farmers, who already face poor soil moisture, reduced flows and in some cases well shutdowns for lack of replacement water.

Cities also are affected. “We did not get a lot of help from winter storage,” Alan Ward, water resources manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works said. The water board is able to store in its own Clear Creek Reservoir, Twin Lakes and Lake Pueblo during the storage program, and recorded about 2,500 acre-feet, about 70 percent of average. Pueblo’s storage is 40 percent of average, and just 69 percent of the levels last year.

While the water board has put spot leases on hold this year, no mandatory outdoor water restrictions are planned. “As long as our direct flow rights stay in priority, we’re not anticipating moving into restrictions,” said Executive Director Terry Book. The board will continue to monitor conditions and may make a slight change in drought conservation policy at its April meeting.

Snowpack lags last year in the Arkansas River basin, at 75 percent of average, while it’s 72 percent of average in the Colorado River basin. Pueblo gets about half its water supply from diversions over the Continental Divide. “We’re beginning to see fairly regular showers in Leadville,” Ward said. “After such a slow start, we’re keeping pace, but not catching up.”

Stream flows are projected to be at about 56 percent of average this year in both the Arkansas and Colorado river basins.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

St. Charles Mesa Water District customers are being asked to reduce outdoor water use as drought continues in Southern Colorado. The district has sufficient water, with storage at 85 percent of capacity, and flows in the Bessemer Ditch at 71 cubic feet per second.

“At that rate the district should be able to maintain its storage and refill this spring. We have Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water in Pueblo Reservoir as a reserve and will use a small portion in 2013,” said Manager David Simpson. “If conditions remain the same in 2013 we would have the project water available for 2014.”

The district is asking its customers to reduce their outdoor irrigation. “Watering one time per week helps establish the lawn root system,” Simpson said. “Watering two to three times per week for short periods does not allow the water to soak into the soil.”

From the Broomfield Enterprise (Megan Quinn):

Broomfield is weighing options on how it gets its water supply, but won’t know until April whether the city will get a reduced amount from one of its main water sources. In April, Broomfield’s two main water suppliers will announce how much water municipalities will receive for the year, City and County Manager Charles Ozaki said during the City Council meeting Tuesday. Broomfield could then decide to buy more water from certain suppliers or ask residents to make changes to save water, he said.

The city has not announced any water restrictions for residents, at least for now. “A lot depends of the type of weather we will have in the next couple weeks, but it is more and more likely that restrictions will imposed” in places that might affect the city’s supply, such as the Denver Water Board, Ozaki said.

Broomfield gets a portion of its water from Denver Water, and as part of its contract, Broomfield must follow any water restrictions the board puts in place. For example, if Denver Water implements a 20 percent water use reduction plan, Broomfield would have to reduce the amount of treated water it receives from Denver Water by 20 percent. That would add up to about 8 percent of Broomfield’s total water supply, according to a staff memo. Broomfield gets its water from Denver Water and from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Both sources rely on mountain snowpack…

Broomfield will have a better idea of its available water on April 12, when the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District will set quotas for water customers. Broomfield gets more than half of its supply from the district…

In Boulder, officials are asking residents not to water their lawns until May. In Fort Collins, lawn watering has been limiting to two days a week starting April 1.

From the Windsor Beacon (Sam Noblett):

Beginning April 1 voluntary water restrictions will be put in place for those Windsor residents in the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, according to a release from the district. The district provides service to those locations west of the county line. Currently all of Windsor is affected by a town ordinance setting in place restrictions on lawn watering but it does not go into effect until May 1. The ordinance restricts all lawn watering, except where privately owned well or raw water is used with the proper permit visible, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The new water restrictions for the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District restricts lawn watering to the same limit placed by the town barring lawn watering from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. but further asks that residents limit lawn watering to two days a week on specified days…

Hawkins said the water district has been limited to using 50 percent of the water it owns this year by the [Northern] Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The days when residents may water lawns is broken down accordingly:

-Residential addresses ending in an even number may water on Thursdays and Sundays.

-Residential addresses ending in an odd number may water on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

-Commercial, business, and multifamily addresses and those within an HOA may water on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Further restrictions are made on car washing and the washing of driveways and sidewalks. When washing a car, the restrictions ask that a hose shut off nozzle and a bucket are used. The restrictions ask that residents do not use water to wash driveways and sidewalks at all. Special allowances may be made for new lawns, large properties, medical hardships, religious objections, and well or raw water. New lawns will be exempt from the restrictions for four weeks, large properties will be limited to to one inch of water per zone, medical hardships and religious objections may choose alternate watering days and there are now restrictions on well or raw water.

Colorado Water Trust webinar March 22 — Request for Water 2013: How it works

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Click here to register for the webinar.

From email from the Colorado Water Trust:

Please join the Colorado Water Trust staff for a presentation detailing how the Request for Water 2013 water leasing program works. This webinar will provide a water user, their representative, or anyone interested in the program with step-by-step instructions for engaging with the Request for Water 2013 program. CWT staff will discuss, briefly, the legal authority and technical underpinnings of the Request for Water 2013 program. CWT staff will explain how the various Request for Water 2013 forms work, what a water user can expect if they offer water for lease, how CWT’s valuation process works and what approximate timelines CWT staff and the CWCB are contemplating for using water rights instream this year. There will be ample time to ask any questions you may have about the program. Please note, however, that we will not be able to answer the question, “Will my water work in the program this year?” As we will discuss, we will ask you to submit an Offer Form so that we may properly and confidentially screen your water right(s) for use in the program.

More instream flow coverage here.

Colorado takes formal action against two energy companies for Parachute Creek spill

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

State regulators took formal enforcement actions against two energy companies Wednesday as efforts continued to try to determine the source of a liquid hydrocarbon discovered near Parachute Creek about four miles northwest of Parachute. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff issued notices of alleged violation against Williams and WPX Energy in connection with a subsurface leak that has produced about 6,000 gallons of a liquid believed to be a byproduct of natural gas development.

Spokespersons Todd Hartman of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Michele Swaner of Williams both said only another one or two more barrels (42 to 84 gallons) of the liquid had been recovered since Tuesday. The amounts recovered have fallen off sharply in the last few days, suggesting the flow from the unidentified source may be diminishing.

However, substantial amounts of contaminated groundwater continue to be removed. More than 102,000 gallons have now been recovered, including more than 16,000 gallons on Wednesday.

There continues to be no evidence of contamination of the creek, and measures including digging interceptor trenches have been taken to try to protect it. The notices issued Wednesday also require the companies to “identify and evaluate all potential receptors of both surface and ground water within a one-mile radius of the interceptor trenches.” Groundwater is only about 10 feet below ground level in part of the contamination area, which is itself up to 14 feet deep.

The citations issued Wednesday could lead to potential fines in connection with the incident. However, the COGCC sometimes issues them to all potentially responsible parties in cases when contamination from an unknown source has occurred, in order to ensure their involvement in helping to determine the source and assisting in remediation and protective measures while the investigation continues.

Williams first discovered soil contamination March 8 in a pipeline corridor adjacent to its gas plant, which is on land owned by WPX Energy. It was doing pipeline location work in preparation for building a new plant on the WPX land. The land belonged to Williams until about a year ago, when it spun off its oil and gas exploration and production operations to focus on operating gas plants and pipelines, and WPX was created as an independent company.

Part of the ongoing investigation has involved a slow-going process of clearing around pipelines belonging to both companies in the right of way to check for leaks. Pressure tests by the companies haven’t indicated that any pipeline leaks are occurring. There also are tanks and other infrastructure in the area, including well pads owned by WPX.

In a March 11 email to a COGCC staff member, Williams environmental specialist Annette Garrigues said, “We do not believe the substance is coming from our facility. WPX and Williams both agree that we do not know where it is coming from. The issue is who takes responsibility for the delineation effort and cost.” That delineation has involved digging to determine the extent of the contaminated area.

In emails to the COGCC, Garrigues also noted WPX also had recently put in a line to carry produced water from gas development, and wondered whether there had been any “historical release” of fluid from a nearby WPX pad. Swaner would not comment Wednesday beyond the brief update she emailed on the status of the investigation and cleanup.

WPX spokeswoman Susan Alvillar said her company has inspected several of its nearby well pads several times, examined tanks and sampled condensate and produced water. Those samples are now being analyzed, she said. The company has found no problems involving the infrastructure or wells themselves, she said. And the substance that has been leaking doesn’t bear any resemblance to produced water, she said. But the company continues to do its part to help with the investigation, she said. As for the question of taking responsibility for costs, “I can tell you we’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on this on our own. We’ve been cooperating,” she said.

“I think until the source is identified, we’ll definitely do our part.”

Meanwhile, former Garfield County Commissioner and state oil and gas Commissioner Tresi Houpt said Wednesday the situation suggests that perhaps better testing criteria are needed in the state commission’s pipeline rules. “There’s absolutely something missing when you read in the paper that it’s going to take weeks to figure out where this (leak) is,” she said.

Various pipeline regulations apply to oil and gas infrastructure, at federal, state and sometimes county levels, depending on things such as whether they are gathering lines from wells or interstate lines. Said Houpt, “As the pipelines age I think it’s going to be really important that we pay more attention to the condition of the pipelines and really … do more comprehensive mapping of where all the pipelines are because there are thousands of them” in Colorado. Garfield County has some 10,000 active wells, and Houpt said pipelines are associated with most of them.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

An investigation continues into the cause of a hydrocarbon leak that has surpassed 5,800 gallons in size, even as concerns are being raised about delays in the town of Parachute and the public being made aware of it.

Todd Hartman, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said Tuesday another 420 gallons of an unidentified liquid apparently associated with natural gas development were pulled from a pipeline right of way near Parachute Creek, about four miles northwest of town, since Monday morning. About 86,500 gallons of contaminated groundwater have been removed, up from about 60,000 as of Monday morning. There’s been no indication of impact to the creek, Hartman said.

Williams, which along with WPX Energy owns pipelines in the right of way, is investigating several lines as potential sources. “It is important to recognize that operators are proceeding cautiously as pipeline environments must always be treated with deliberate and considered actions,” Hartman said.

Bob Knight, administrator for the town of Parachute, said he and other town officials visited the site Tuesday morning and were reassured by what they saw. “I’m comfortable that everything’s been contained; nothing’s going to get into Parachute Creek,” he said.

But he isn’t happy that Williams first discovered contamination March 8 and didn’t notify the town until last Wednesday, five days later. After an incident came to light in 2008 involving contamination of Garden Gulch in the Parachute Creek watershed by the oil and gas industry, Knight said, protocols were put in place to assure immediate notification of the town in the case of future incidents threatening the creek, which the town uses for irrigation. Knight said Williams failed to follow that protocol in this month’s situation. “I just think we were left out of the loop and I find that displeasing,” he said.

Rick Bumgardner, whose cattle run on leased land and drink from the creek downstream of the contamination site, said he didn’t learn of the situation until being told by another rancher Monday. He said he’s never contacted in such cases, but “they’re my cattle that are going to drink the polluted water when it happens … if it happens.”

Chris Arend, with the group Conservation Colorado, said incidents such as the Parachute one are good examples of how there needs to be greater transparency involving the industry. He said it’s important in the case of major releases for the public to be informed in a timely manner. “This is a major spill and we’re just finding out about it now. That’s not good for Colorado’s public health,” he said Monday.

Howard Orona, who lives on Parachute Creek and is a citizens representative on Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board, said whether information was made public soon enough is questionable, and getting it out early helps prevent rampant speculation.

The problem was first discovered when Williams was locating pipelines in an existing pipeline right of way adjacent to a gas plant it owns on land belonging to WPX Energy. Williams is preparing to add a new plant there. “Companies do what is called self-reporting, which is certainly what we did March 8,” Williams spokeswoman Michele Swaner said.

Both the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the federal Environmental Protection Agency received immediate notification.

Hartman said he believes the initial discovery was limited to soil contamination. Williams provided further notification Wednesday upon discovering the liquids, he said. WPX provided notification Friday when more liquids were found during trenching work to address the contamination. Hartman said it was probably about 4 p.m. Friday that the executive director’s office of the Department of Natural Resources came to understand a significant volume of liquid was involved.

DNR director Mike King said in a statement Tuesday, “When we learned about this Friday our thoughts and energy were focused on ensuring protection of the environment, and making sure the right things were happening on the ground and with notification of local leadership. In retrospect, we recognize the concerns, and we’re evaluating how we can better communicate in these situations going forward.”

Hartman said that on Friday, “We did not see an imminent threat to health and safety and thought it better to get more information and better understand the situation before issuing some kind of announcement that would have said very little at that stage.”

Saturday, the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association worked with companies to issue a news release, as news of the incident began to break. At that point, Hartman said, “I determined it was best for me to gather information from our field people … so I could provide COGCC’s information and perspective to reporters who were working the story.” He added, “These things unfold quickly and you have to make rapid decisions with incomplete information. Should the same thing happen again, I might do it differently, but that’s how it played out this time.”

Swaner said Tuesday that she couldn’t speak to the issue of communication protocols with Parachute and future notification, but added, “Obviously we are talking to agencies and to Parachute, of course, and will continue to do so.”

Steve Gunderson, director of the state Water Quality Control Division, said that based on its volume, the Parachute leak is “a significant release” and an impact of the creek remains “a real possibility.” He said the agency’s enforcement officials will consider whether additional actions are necessary, but it may defer to the oil and gas commission, per an agreement between the agencies.

Oil and gas regulators issued cease-and-desist orders against Williams and WPX to ensure measures are taken to protect the creek and surface. Hartman said the agency also is planning to issue a notice of alleged violation.

EPA spokesman Matthew Allen said that agency also is working on issuing an enforcement order outlining steps it wants taken to protect the creek.

The Colorado Wildlife Federation said the incident shows the need for the oil and gas commission to finish something it postponed action on five years ago — establishing safe operational setbacks from waterways. They said better water monitoring also might have led to the contamination being detected earlier.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

National wildlife advocates on Tuesday urged Colorado leaders to take action to protect mountain rivers from oil and gas spills as vacuum crews continued to drain hydrocarbons from an uncontained plume from a spill north of the Colorado River near Parachute.

More than 86,000 gallons, including 5,838 gallons of hydrocarbons, had been removed from the plume spreading by a Williams energy company gas plant along Parachute Creek, Williams spokeswoman Michele Swaner said.

State regulators in 2008 deferred the issue of buffers for oil and gas wells and pipelines along rivers and streams. The spill, reported March 8, “is one more strong argument for keeping oil and gas wells and related infrastructure a safe distance from waterways,” Colorado Wildlife Federation director Suzanne O’Neill said. State regulators “pledged to form a stakeholders’ group to develop standards for riparian setbacks. We’re still waiting.”

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

“Everything is status quo,” added Williams’ spokeswoman Donna Gray, explaining that the actual source of the plume had not been located.

Todd Hartman, communications official for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — which oversees the industry — said that as of late Tuesday the crews had vacuumed 10 additional barrels of “oil” from the spill site that day. That brings the amount of what he termed “oil” vacuumed from the site to a total of 139 barrels, or 5,800 gallons, according to Hartman…

Also on Tuesday, a group of Western Slope industry critics told the Post Independent they felt the county erred in not immediately making a public announcement about the spill when it was first reported on March 8.

“For us to learn a week later is not acceptable,” said Leslie Robinson, a member of the county’s Energy Advisory Board and of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA), a lobbying and citizen advocacy group.

Finally on Tuesday, a pair of environmental advocacy groups, National Wildlife Federation and the Colorado Wildlife Federation, issued a statement staying the spill “should be a wake-up call for state regulators to [get to work] establishing safe setbacks for waterways” to keep spills from polluting local rivers and streams.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

2013 Colorado legislation: SB13-074 is on its way to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk #coleg

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From The Holyoke Enterprise (Marianne Goodland):

The bill to clarify ambiguous water decrees prior to 1937 is on its way to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 13-074 passed the House on a 55-8 vote on March 10. Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) carried the bill on behalf of last fall’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee. The House agriculture committee approved it on March 4. The committee amended it to clarify some of the language regarding enforcement of old water decrees.

SB 74 is in response to several recent Colorado Supreme Court cases that could impact senior irrigation water rights, according to Sonnenberg. Those cases resulted in dramatic reductions in the irrigated acres on the South Platte River, acres that had been irrigated for close to 100 years. Farm families have relied on these diversions for generations, Sonnenberg told the House, and the court decisions destabilized those water rights.

SB 74 notes that some decrees do not include acreage limitations, and water courts have looked at historic consumptive use to determine the lawful historical consumptive use, based on the original appropriator’s intent. SB 74 says that if a decree entered prior to Jan. 1, 1937, establishes an irrigation water right and doesn’t limit the number of irrigated acres, the lawful maximum amount would equal the maximum number of acres irrigated for the first 50 years after the original decree was entered.

Opponents, including attorney Steve Simms, who represented the Colorado Water Congress, testified that the bill sends a “bad message: if you cheat and get away with it, we’ll legitimize it as long as you can hide it long enough.”

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.