May 21, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: V Bar Ranch LLC v. Cotton, Division Engineer for Water Division No. 3

on June 21, 2010.

Water Rights—Well Permits—Administrative Procedure Act—Appropriation—State Engineer—Equitable Estoppel.

In this appeal from the District Court for Water Division Number 3, the Supreme Court affirmed the water court’s decision affirming the State Engineer’s modification of appellant’s replacement well permit. The Supreme Court held that the State Engineer has the authority to modify previously issued well permits. Additionally, the Court held that when a decree adjudicating a groundwater right is silent as to the location of use, use of the water right is defined by the beneficial use to which the water was put at the time of appropriation. Therefore, water that, when appropriated, was applied to one parcel cannot be additionally applied to a new parcel without a water court decree allowing the change of use. Finally, the Court held that the doctrine of equitable estoppel is inapplicable to this case.

Summary and full case available here.

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