July 3, 2016--Vail Daily column: Use it or lose it? (Vail Daily)

The “use it or lose it” feature of Colorado water law is often blamed for discouraging farmers and ranchers from taking efficiency and conservation measures that could benefit the environment or ease the supply and demand imbalance on the Colorado River. However, a report released in February by the Colorado Water Institute argues that misinterpretations of the law are a bigger disincentive than the law itself. The report was developed as a result of in-depth discussions by a panel of stakeholders and experts that included Colorado State Engineer Dick Wolfe, who directs the office that administers water rights. Wolfe presented the report at a forum on the future of irrigated agriculture in Delta on May 3, and Colorado River District Counsel Peter Fleming presented the report at the Mesa County State of the River meeting in Grand Junction on May 13. The report concludes that diverting more water from a stream than crops actually use does not expand a water right. In addition, the report explains that recent laws allow irrigators to cut their water consumption without diminishing their water rights if they are participating in certain water conservation, fallowing and leasing programs. To read the full article visit the Vail Daily.