From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
Aurora should be penalized for storing and using West Slope water without having the appropriate water rights, several West Slope water agencies contend in a case before the Colorado Supreme Court.
The West Slope agencies, including the Grand Valley Water Users’ Association, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Ute Water Conservancy District, appealed a ruling in which a Pueblo water court upheld the transmountain diversion of 2,416 acre feet of water from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River to Aurora via an irrigation diversion.
The Western Slope agencies don’t object to the diversion per se, but contend that Aurora should not benefit from using what was billed as irrigation water by using the water for municipal purposes.
The distinction is important because water that diverted across the Continental Divide is considered to be a 100-percent consumptive use. That’s because there is no return flow back to the West Slope.
Aurora sought a change of use for the water in 2009, but had been diverting it since 1987. The irrigation decree also didn’t allow storage of the water.
West Slope agencies said Aurora’s years of municipal use that were inconsistent with the irrigation decree should be included as zeroes in the calculation of the average historical consumptive use. That would reduce the amount of water that Aurora could divert through the Busk-Ivanhoe system, which has a 1928 water right for irrigation in the lower Arkansas River valley.
The Grand Valley water agencies are appealing the ruling from the water court in Pueblo that upheld Aurora’s storage of the water in East Slope reservoirs, and others, including the Colorado River Water Conservation District, also are asking the Supreme Court to reconsider the way the court calculated the amount of water that could be diverted for Aurora’s municipal use.
“We are not opposing the change, just the calculation,” river district spokesman Chris Treese said. “We feel that if the court ignores this sort of negligence of the change-of-use laws, that it would encourage similar extra-legal uses of water whether it involves transmountain water or in-basin uses.”
A hearing has yet to be scheduled in the case.
More water law coverage here.