March 2, 2015--State Supreme Court to weigh water diversion (Aspen Journal)

A water court case in Pueblo over the size of water rights from the upper Fryingpan River delivered through the Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel to the East Slope has now blossomed into a Colorado Supreme Court case full of powerful interests opposing each other across the Continental Divide. A bevy of West Slope entities, including Pitkin, Eagle and Grand counties, the Colorado River District and the Grand Valley Water Users, Association are arguing against a May 2014 water court decision that gave Aurora the right to use 2,416 acre-feet of water from the Fryingpan for municipal purposes in Aurora instead of for irrigation purposes in the Arkansas River valley. The new decree gives Aurora the right to divert up to 144,960 acre-feet of water over a 60-year period. The other West Slope entities in the case are the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, the Ute Water Conservancy District and the Basalt Water Conservancy District. On other side, a list of the most powerful water entities on the East Slope have filed legal briefs supporting Aurora’s positions, including Denver Water, Colorado Springs, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, the Northern Water Conservancy District and the Southeastern Water Conservancy District. Pitkin County is specifically arguing that the water court judge should have counted Aurora’s 22 years of undecreed use of the water for municipal purposes — between 1987 and 2009 — when determining the historic lawful use of the water right, and thus, the size of the right’s “transferable yield” from irrigation to municipal use. Instead, the judge set 1928 to 1986 as the representative sampling of years and excluded the 22 years of Aurora’s admittedly undecreed use. To view the full article visit the Aspen Journal.