RBC | As drought conditions worsen across western Colorado water issues continue to play on the forefront of most landowner’s minds, often leaving them with questions about water use. Locally we have two water commissioners who work to govern local water issues and meet the needs of water users.
Water Division Engineer Erin Light, who oversees area commissioners, says water commissioners are responsible for placing or honoring calls on stream systems and collecting records on all water usage, both statutory responsibilities of the Division of Water Resources. “Water commissioners also spend a substantial amount of time meeting with, helping and answering questions of water users,” she said.
According to Light maintaining these records plays an essential role in water management. “A water right is based on its beneficial use and for this reason, the measurement and recording of the use of water under a water right is vital to maintaining the value of one’s water right. All our water commissioners welcome people’s records of their water use. And though it is our responsibility to collect records of use, because each water commissioner has over 350 structures to visit as often as they can, they cannot capture a full picture of the use of water in a ditch throughout an irrigation season,” she said.
Occasionally this data collection requires that the water commissioners access privately owned property, something Light says is allowed by statute. “This sometimes is upsetting to people but I can guarantee you that our water commissioners are there to collect records, confirm use of the water and how it is being used and then they leave the property. They are all very respectful of the fact that they are on private property,” she said.
Water Commissioners are able to answer concerns about water rights and if they are being met, as well as about well permitting. “Honestly they can answer just about any question related to water provided it does not have to do with water quality,” said Light.
The role of the water commissioner stops at a water’s headgate, making them different from ditch riders. Commissioners will travel down a ditch to confirm use of water or to assist water users with any disputes on the ditch. On the other hand, ditches riders manage the ditch from the headgate, down.