Calls for Water

Calls for Water

In 1969, the Colorado legislature recognized that groundwater and surface water are linked. They passed the Water Rights Determination and Adjudication Act, which required wells to follow the Prior Appropriation Doctrine like everyone else.

The State Engineer administered the 1969 Act, and many well users decided to comply with it. They bought water rights and submitted permanent augmentation plans to replace water they were pumping out of the aquifer. An augmentation plan lets a junior well-user pump water even if he is not in priority, because he will replace the water later and not harm senior users.

Other well users relied on the State Engineer's sketchy annual approval program, which limped along until the next big drought.

In 2002, the worst drought in recorded history hammered Front Range water resources. Calls for water by senior surface-water users started early and were incessant. Well-users who hadn't already locked up augmentation water couldn't find a drop of affordable water. Then surface-water users challenged the State Engineer's annual approval program.

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