From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation, Senate Bill 74, to correct a glitch in Colorado water law that threatened the value of senior water rights, specifically pre-1937 decrees.
Sponsored by state Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, and state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, the new law is designed to mitigate the impact of two recent Colorado Supreme Court decisions, which require senior ditch companies to prove that the farmers who initiated the rights in the 1860s intended to irrigate all the lands and ditches irrigated today.
“If farmers couldn’t find sufficient evidence demonstrating the intent of the original appropriator, the water court reduced the number of acres that could be served by the rights, even though the ditches had been irrigating the acreages for over 100 years,” said Andy Jones, a water lawyer representing the Legacy Ditch Association. “Colorado farmers, especially those in the South Platte River Basin, faced the prospect of having a substantial percentage of their net worth wiped out.”
SB74 restores certainty for Colorado farmers by saying that if a decree was granted prior to 1937 and is silent on permissible acreage, then all acreage [irrigated by the water right] within 50 years of the decree is lawful.
More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.