2015 Colorado legislation: Flexible water markets bill reincarnated in HB15-1038 #coleg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A controversial bill that failed to find its way into law last year has resurfaced in the state Legislature.

The bill is an attempt to create a flex water right that would allow agricultural water to be applied to other uses for up to five years in 10. The bill has been adjusted to prevent it from being used to move water anywhere, anytime for any use, as the first versions allowed. [ed. emphasis mine]

[HB15-1038, Flexible Water Markets], sponsored by state Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, would allow a more flexible water right that requires continued irrigation of farmland, identifies end users and includes continued court review as a condition. It also prevents water from being transferred from one basin to another. [ed. emphasis mine]

The bill would allow a water judge to determine conditions that determine continued irrigation.

It would allow up to 50 percent of the consumptive use — that part of water used to grow crops — over a 10-year period to be used for things such as municipal supplies, recreation, environment or compact compliance.

Some changes in the bill are an attempt to comply with the state’s anti-speculation doctrine as outlined to the interim water resources review committee in September by Justice Greg Hobbs.

Among recent Supreme Court decisions prohibiting speculative use is the 2005 decision to uphold Pueblo District Judge Dennis Maes’ 2003 decision to deny an application on the Fort Lyon Canal by High Plains A&M that would have allowed wide-scale water marketing.

A second measure, [SB15-008, Promote Water Conservation In Land Use Planning], sponsored by state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and state Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, would attempt to tie water conservation with land-use planning through state water funding programs.

It passed the Senate ag committee on a 5-4 vote.

The bill came out of the interim water resources committee with provisions and a proposed amendment by Roberts that would make conservation training mandatory for water officials and land use planners. It would apply to water providers that supply more than 2,000 acre-feet of water annually.

That bill is already getting pushback from municipal water providers, who are offering alternative language that allows for more time to develop conservation plans and gives them credit for quantifiable conservation programs in the past.

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