“It seems to me the best policy is to put the water to beneficial use” — Jerry Sonnenberg


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

El Paso County communities tried last week to convince the state’s interim water resources review committee that water rights they purchase are “eroded” when growth fails to materialize as soon as expected. Lawmakers listened, but took no action.

Lawyers for Fountain and the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority told the committee last week that agricultural rights they purchased are diminished if the water is not immediately used when growth does not materialize.

They proposed two changes in the law:

  • A measure which would remove the need for a water right that has been changed to be taken to water court again for actions such as a new point of diversion.

    “Any change will shrink a senior water right, not ratchet them up,” said Denver water lawyer Rick Fendel, representing the Pikes Peak group. “We’re looking for ways to get us through the gauntlet of water court.”

  • A proposal to quantify changes on a ditch equally so the most recent changes aren’t penalized by generous assumptions in the past.

    “The last guy on the ditch suffers because the historic consumptive use is all used up by the guys who came before you,” said Denver water attorney Cynthia Covell, representing Fountain.

  • Cities that buy farm water and don’t immediately use it are subject to a reduction of use, but not the loss of the water right, Deputy State Engineer Kevin Rein explained.

    Cities often obtain conditional water rights that allow them to grow into their supplies, but in recent years courts have put limits on how far into the future they can plan.

    The legislators were not receptive to change the laws solely to accommodate cities.

    “It seems to me the best policy is to put the water to beneficial use,” said state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, adding that cities should not “mismanage” their supplies.

    Covell said Fountain’s growth is largely determined by the pace of expansion at Fort Carson, something the city cannot control. “You don’t want to have to get the supply after the future arrives,” Covell said. “This would bring certainty based on the water rights’ decreed purpose.”

    More water law coverage here.

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