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RMW - May 2017

ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATER MAY 2017 | 23 HOT TOPICS Objectives of Ground Water Recharge and Storage surface water rights holders from injury that may occur due to out-of-priority diversions. Thus, while studies have doc-umented tremendous storage capacities in tributary alluvial aquifers, implementa-tion of ASR projects is hampered by this system of water rights administration. In contrast, nontributary groundwater, des-ignated groundwater, and groundwater within the Denver Basin aquifer system are not subject to the doctrine of prior appropriation (CFWE, 2015). Designated groundwater is administered according to a Modified Priority System. Given this hydrogeologic character, non-tributary formations lend themselves to long-term storage of water. Colorado water law, however, presumes that all groundwater is tributary. Regional or aquifer-specific determinations of non-tributary groundwater have not been con-ducted by the state. Because nontributary groundwater is allocated to the overlying landowner, nontributary determinations are made on an application basis. No aquifer storage projects have been imple-mented in nontributary aquifers outside of the Denver Basin. Designated basins offer the only other alternative for storage projects within unconsolidated alluvial deposits. In 1965, the Colorado General Assembly autho-rized the Colorado Ground Water Com-mission to create designated groundwater basins containing groundwater charac-terized as “that groundwater which in its natural course would not be available to and required for the fulfillment of decreed surface rights, or groundwater in areas not adjacent to a continuously flowing natural stream wherein groundwater withdrawals have constituted the principal water usage for at least fifteen years . . . .” (§37-90-103 (6) (a), CRS). There are currently eight designated basins, all located on the east-ern plains (Figure 2, below) in which the unconsolidated alluvium is the primary Figure 1. Management objectives of aquifer recharge projects. Figure 2. Location of Colorado’s designated groundwater basins (from CFWE).


RMW - May 2017
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