Conservation Corner: Water Law in a Nutshell

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Did you learn the definition of an alluvium this weekend? Or what estoppel means? If you attended the Douglas Creek Conservation District’s “Water Law in a Nutshell” class this weekend, presented by Mr. Aaron Clay, you now know the answers to both questions. 

The Water Law in a Nutshell class covered numerous water topics pertinent to Rio Blanco County residents. Twenty-four individuals were able to take advantage of the class in-person or by Zoom.  

Primary topics included water terminology, measurements of water, Prior Appropriation Doctrine, practical application of water law, and interstate compacts.  Excellent questions and engagement from the 25 participants helped everyone have a much better understanding of Colorado water law and how it affects them directly.

One of many examples of valuable information is learning about “domestic preference” in the Prior Appropriations system.  While domestic water use has preference over any other purpose, including agriculture and manufacturing, a Colorado Supreme Court case decided that provision does not alter the priority system.  “However, it does give municipalities the power to condemn water rights, if the owners of those water rights are paid just compensation.”1 

Another example is how important it is to verify water rights when purchasing property with water.  If the water right is stock in a ditch company, the purchaser should verify with the ditch company that the stock certificate is recorded in the current landowner’s name and the amount.  If not stock in a ditch company, it is important to verify the water right at the clerk and recorders’ office.  

The seven-hour Water Law in a Nutshell class was recorded.  If you are interested in viewing the class please contact the District office at whiterivercd@gmail.com or 970-878-9838 to make arrangements.

                      1Water Law in a Nutshell, Aaron R. Clay


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