From The Ag Journal (Candace Krebs) via The La Junta Tribune Democrat:
f there’s an antidote to the threat of water speculation in Colorado, state legislators have a ways to go to come up with a means to do it that will satisfy most agriculturalists, based on a panel held during the Colorado Ag Water Summit.
For now, any proposed legislation that involves the risk of intrusive government intervention or the potential to devalue a multigenerational private property asset puts many in the farming and ranching community on edge.
In a mutually respectful but sometimes tense discussion, a wide-ranging panel described the sale of water rights as existing along a spectrum ranging from an unfettered marketplace modeled on Wall Street to something more akin to a public trust.
Discussed at some length was a 160-page report compiled by a 19-member working group that led to a few early proposals that made most panelists and audience members uneasy.
Joe Bernal, a Mesa County farmer and one of only two landowners on the working group, felt the dialogue had been constructive and informative but ended without a clear path forward and with more research and input needed.
As a farmer, he felt outnumbered, he said. And he was disappointed the group failed to reach a clear consensus on what water speculation actually is…
The final paragraph of the report urged legislators not to act on any of the concepts discussed due to the drawbacks identified and a lack of consensus among the group…
An early draft bill would grant the state water engineer the ability to investigate complaints of investment water speculation and fine purchasers up to $10,000 if they determine speculation is occurring, along with capping the percentage of ag water rights a single owner can hold in a district, requiring sworn affidavits of a purchaser’s intent and potentially other fines and restrictions…
One area where most everyone agreed was on the concept of tying water rights to beneficial use as one of the state’s proudest achievements.
Beneficial use implies water is a shared asset of the state that can’t be purchased merely to hold or to hoard; it has to be deployed in a way that maximizes its value for all.
From there, however, opinions quickly splintered in different directions.