September 28, 2007--Wells connected to surface rights (Pueblo Chieftain)

Wells in Colorado are subject to the same system of prior appropriation - first in time, first in right - as surface appropriation, lawyers explained Thursday at a two-day statewide conference looking at state groundwater issues. Laws, however, have had to evolve to keep up with nature. “When the law defies the laws of nature, the law is an ass,” joked Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs. Hobbs, a water lawyer before joining the high court 11 years ago, writes most of the decisions dealing with water law for the court. Hobbs described how Colorado water law evolved by 1965 to recognize that large areas of groundwater in the state are connected to streams. The exceptions are designated groundwater basins and the deep aquifers of the Denver Basin that are not connected with any surface supplies. “Just as a ditch is a diversion structure, a well is a diversion structure,” Hobbs said. “If you’re in a low-water year, you’re subject to curtailment.” A well permit is just permission to drill for the water, and water obtained from the well is subject to the same requirements for beneficial use as surface water, he explained.

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