WATER RIGHTS IN A DRY YEAR 8:23, August 10, 2018

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Due to the low snowpack from the 2017-2018 winter season, the western slope is experiencing a summer with very low water.  Under Colorado water law, when water levels drop in streams and rivers, the senior water rights on those streams can place a call which then restricts, or eliminates, the water available to junior water rights on that same stream.  In order to allow for junior water rights, including wells, to continue to operate, the State provides for the adjudication of augmentation plans which often use contracted water from large reservoirs, on-site ponds, or dried up senior irrigation rights.  In dry years, water tables that feed wells can drop which can create a loss of pumping rate, productivity and possibly dry up of the well.

In order to address some of the issues outlined above, well owners should review their permits and any associated augmentation plans or water allotment contracts to insure that all are still valid and in full force and effect.  If there has been a reduction in pumping ability and productivity, well owners should engage a professional to review the well permit and the water levels.  Homeowners’ Associations that operate the subdivision water systems will need to ensure sufficient storage capacity in the event wells run low; our firm can help with review of these needs.

In regard to irrigation rights, in the event a call is placed on your stream and your water is reduced, we can assist with planning for water efficiencies as well as research whether more senior water is available for lease or sale.  Disputes often arise between water users during low water years and Garfield & Hecht, P.C. has experience in mediating and resolving these disputes.  It is unlawful for third parties to adjust or shut down water diversion structures or measuring devices – only main headgates are regulated by the State; any individual laterals, measuring devices or diversion structures belong to the water user and are not subject to third party regulation unless there is a governing ditch company or ditch sharing agreement.  Ditch sharing agreements can be beneficial and we can assist with drafting and negotiating these among water users.

Please do not hesitate to contact Mary Elizabeth Geiger (970-925-1936 ext.813, ), Nicole Garrimone-Campagna (970-925-1936 ext.811 ) or David McConaughy (970-925-1936 ext.810 David H. McConaughy ) in our water practice group if you have questions or need assistance with regard to your water rights.