From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A flex marketing bill, similar to one that stalled in the state Legislature earlier this year, failed to make it out of the interim water resources review committee this week. Discussion of the bill snagged on a section that would prohibit transfers between basins in the state, as members of the committee deadlocked in a 5-5 tie at a meeting in Denver Tuesday. Seven votes were needed to move the legislation forward in 2015.
The legislation still could be brought forward if an individual sponsor is found. The idea came out of a South Platte study of water use co-sponsored by the Colorado Corn Growers, Aurora and Ducks Unlimited, and is being promoted primarily by water lawyer Andy Jones.
The flex water right proposed in the legislation would allow agricultural water rights to be used for multiple purposes — including municipal, industrial and recreation — under either a court decree or in a substitute water supply plan. It would allow water to be taken off the land through fallowing or deficit irrigation — a largely untested concept — for five years in every 10. The bill has raised concerns about speculation, which were addressed in the revised version by adding that continuation of agriculture would be the primary purpose of the water right. It also contains a section that would allow a judge to review whether a flex water right would harm other water rights after it has been decreed, presumably placing the filing of a protest and burden of proof on the owner of the water right claiming injury.
Water rights now are decreed after applicants prove or reach agreements that assure other rights will be mitigated for possible damages.
Six bills dealing with water issues are headed for the Colorado General Assembly in 2015, following action by the interim water resources review committee. Bills are not yet numbered.
Water issues in land-use planning: Directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Department of Local Affairs to provide water education to land-use planners.
Rain harvesting: Refining legislation in 2009 that allowed the CWCB to conduct up to 10 pilot projects for collection of rainwater by new developments. It would reduce the amount of replacement water required.
Dawson aquifer: Repeals an augmentation requirement for the Dawson Aquifer (part of the Denver Basin aquifers) to continue the current standard of replacing actual depletions.
Water-table lowering: Requires CWCB and the state engineer to administer two pilot projects to lower South Platte water tables in northeastern Colorado.
Invasive phreatophytes: Creates a five-year grant program from the noxious weed management fund to control invasive species such as salt cedars and Russian olives.
Groundwater appeals: Allows additional evidence to be presented when appealing decisions by the state groundwater commission or the state engineer.
More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.