Water has always been a concern in the Mountain West and people have often stretched themselves and the available technology to get it. David Lavender, in his book One Man’s West ** tells of a mining company near Naturita, CO in the early 20th century that wanted to do some hydraulic mining.
The company went to drastic measures to get the water. They built a flume into the side of a cliff to transport the water to the mine. They blasted tunnels, sent men and horses on dangerous trips to get suitable wood and finally they lowered men over the cliffs to build the flume.
Lavender says they spent over a million dollars on the project, quite a sum at the time, only to have the whole thing fail because of a single engineering miscalculation.
Maybe that gives you an idea why water laws can be so complex in Colorado.
With such an important resource in short supply, Colorado’s constitution has unique statues regarding how water resources can be transported. Occasionally, these laws affect urban landowners.
For example, earlier this year, in Greenwood Village, CAW Equities wanted to build an irrigation ditch through an area that had a public biking and equestrian trail and tried to use the “private right of condemnation” permitted by Colorado law for water transport.
The city argued that the CAW had no right to condemn the land for their own uses because they had failed to prove that it was “necessary” for them to do so. Ultimately, the court of appeals sided with the City of Greenwood Village, saying only in “extraordinary circumstances” can someone use public land to build irrigation canals.
Could your urban commercial or residential property be affected by local water laws? Considering that until recently, rain barrels were illegal in Colorado cities and that some city subdivisions have wells, it is possible.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to become an expert in Colorado water laws. We keep up with all applicable property laws and, as your property manager, keep you high and dry.
** Lavender, David. “Canyon Camp.” One Man’s West, Garden City NY, Doubleday, 1943, 274-276.