Public Trust Doctrine

In an ongoing effort to inform the public and water community alike, this is the second in a four- part 2014 series related to the Colorado Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) issue. For reference, a four-part series ran in 2013 as well. Recently, Initiatives 75 (Right to Local Self-Government) and 89 (Local Government Regulation of Environment) were cleared for signature collection. This means that two of the 2014 ballot initiatives of great concern to Colorado's water community will take the next step towards the 2014 ballot. Each Initiative will require 86,105 valid signatures to be placed on the ballot for the November election. Colorado Water Congress indicated that Initiative's 75 and 89 are just as much a threat to Colorado's water resources as Initiative 103 (Public Trust Doctrine) and should be taken seriously. Initiative 103, which sought to establish a right to clean air, clean water, and natural resources in the state, was recently denied ballot status due to a technicality. Initiative 75 would strengthen “local control,” allowing local governments to adopt environmental regulations that override state laws, including the laws that limit and balance local governments’ regulation of water facilities. Initiative 89 would combine this local control theme with a Public Trust Doctrine, declaring “common property” in Colorado’s water and environment and obligating state and local government to conserve these resources as trustees. As Justice Gregory Hobbs stated, “Initiative 89 would upend the existing regulatory balance and thrust private property owners and governments into an uncertain future.”

For more information on the PTD and/or the Colorado Water Congress’ Colorado Water Stewardship Project visit their website at or contact Meg Meyer at [email protected] or 303-837-0812 x2.