Water Rights

Our experienced water law team has been at the forefront of contemporary water rights issues.  As drought conditions in Colorado and elsewhere have made clear, western water law is a complex system that requires depth and breadth of experience and skill to successfully navigate. Our water law team has represented a wide variety of clients on the issues important to Colorado water users, including:

  • Using the Water Court system to adjudicate new water rights, change water rights, and maintain and protect existing water rights;
  • Working with the State and Division Engineers to obtain administrative approval for uses of water rights and to resolve water administration issues;
  • Obtaining determinations of designated groundwater from the Ground Water Commission and approval of water usage from Ground Water Management Districts;
  • Negotiating and closing water rights transactions, including purchases, sales, and obtaining security interests in water rights; and
  • Advising clients on federal water policy and regulation issues such as the Endangered Species Act, water quality, use of federal facilities and reserved water rights.

Our water clients include a nine-county regional water conservancy district, local water suppliers, one of Colorado’s largest industrial water users, real estate and energy developers, nonprofit organizations, associations of water users, ditch companies, farmers, ranchers and homeowners with residential water wells.

Water Rights Adjudication and Litigation

  • Adjudication of surface and underground water rights, including new absolute and conditional rights, changes of water rights;
  • Obtaining Water Court approval of changes of existing water rights, exchanges, and augmentation plans;
  • Protecting and managing existing water rights and water uses;
  • Water rights abandonment litigation;
  • Appeals of Water Court decisions in the Colorado Supreme Court;
  • Water supply development and permitting.

Groundwater Rights

  • Adjudication, permitting, and use of tributary, nontributary, Denver Basin, and designated basin groundwater;
  • Use of geothermal resources; and
  • Use of produced water.

Water Transfers and Transactions

  • Due diligence on water rights and water impacts of real estate transactions
  • Negotiating purchases, sales, and leases of water rights;
  • Environmental audits;
  • Flood control and drainage;
  • Land use and development;
  • Litigation, including water rights ownership and quiet title proceedings;
  • Real estate transactions, easements and leases;
  • Due diligence on water rights and water impacts of real estate transactions; and
  • Transbasin diversions and interstate compacts.

Federal and state water laws, regulations and policies

  • Legislation (State and Federal);
  • Clean Water Act permitting (NPDES and Section 404 Permits);
  • Federal contracting;
  • Federal Land Management policies and rules, including federal leases, permits, and easements;
  • Endangered Species Act;
  • National Environmental Policy Act;
  • Federal Reclamation Law;
  • Participation in State agency rulemaking and administrative hearings; and
  • Colorado ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments.

Local government and special district laws, rules and policies

  • Advising and representing water conservancy, water conservation, municipal and other special districts regarding applicable laws, rules, and policies;
  • Public agency and elections law;
  • Local government finance and securities matters;
  • Open meetings and records laws, TABOR and budget laws, contracts, and intergovernmental agreements, annexation, disconnection, and subdivision;
  • Local water supply planning, including legal analysis of potential acquisitions;
  • Improvement and water tap purchase agreements;
  • Development and promulgation of rules and regulations; and
  • Cooperative agreements to manage stream flow while protecting government and private interests.

Water Quality and wetlands regulation

  • Safe Drinking Water Act compliance and enforcement matters;
  • Wetlands regulation and mitigation; and
  • State and Federal permitting (including NPDES, Section 404 and storm water permits).

Ditch and reservoir companies

  • Represent ditch owners in landowner disputes and litigation, rate setting and regulatory issues; and
  • Ditch company formation, structure and bylaws.

Development Issues

  • Inclusion within a water/sanitation or water conservancy district; and
  • Negotiating and satisfying water supply requirements associated with obtaining water service and subdivision approval.