On May 18, 2016, Governor Hickenlooper signed House Bill 16-1228 into law. This law allows the owner of an absolute decreed irrigation water right used for agricultural purposes to change that water right to an “Agricultural Water Protection Water Right.” After the change is decreed, the owner of the Agricultural Water Protection Water Right may lease, loan, or trade up to 50 percent of the HCU that was changed to another water user for a new use. The State Engineer must approve that new use through a substitute water supply plan (“SWSP”) pursuant to section 37-92-308(12), C.R.S. This law applies only in Water Divisions 1 and 2. The State Engineer, in consultation with CWCB and interested stakeholders, developed Rules and the Statement of Basis and Purpose for the Rules.
An important provision in the law requires that a portion of the water right that is not part of the lease, loan, or trade remain in agricultural use. The owner of the water right must participate in a conservation program or an Agricultural Water Protection Program that is developed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the applicable law. The law required that the CWCB develop Criteria and Guidelines for the development of an Agricultural Water Protection Program.
For more information on this new tool to meet water demands while sustaining irrigated agriculture, please refer to the Beginner’s Guide to Agricultural Water Protection Water Right (PDF) developed by the Colorado Division of Water Resources and CWCB.