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General Assembly passes the Colorado Water Rights Protection Act

May 5, 2016   |   Real Estate and Real Property, Water Law

The Colorado Water Rights Protection Act (click here to access the bill) unanimously passed the House and Senate, and Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill on April 21. The bill is aimed at protecting state water rights on federal lands. It aims to address a Forest Service policy of requiring ski areas to give their private water rights to the federal government in exchange for renewal of leases for public land.

The bill declares that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are subject to Colorado Water Court. Furthermore, the bill limits the authority of the State Engineer and Division Engineer to administer or enforce efforts by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to:

  • Require transfer of water rights to the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management;
  • Restrict use or alienability of a water right as a condition of approval for use of federal land; or
  • Require a third party providing water to a special use permittee of federal land to supply water for a set period of time or in a set amount.