July 18, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Water Court Properly Dismissed Objection that Water Right Holder Would Not Be Able to Deliver Augmentation Water

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Well Augmentation Subdistrict of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District and South Platte Well Users Association v. Centennial Water and Sanitation District on Tuesday, February 19, 2019.

Water Law—Burden of Proof

Centennial Water and Sanitation District (Centennial) appealed from a water court order dismissing its objection to the Well Augmentation Subdistrict’s (WAS) proposal to use additional sources of replacement water for its previously decreed augmentation plan. Centennial had asserted that WAS failed to comply with the notice requirements of the decree itself and that this failure amounted to a per se injury, for which it was entitled to relief without any further showing of operational effect. The water court heard Centennial’s motion objecting to WAS’s proposed addition of new sources of replacement water and, without requiring WAS to present evidence, found that Centennial failed to establish prima facie facts of WAS’s inability to deliver augmentation water in quantity or time to prevent injury to other water users. Referencing C.R.C.P. 41 as the appropriate procedural vehicle, the water court dismissed Centennial’s objection.

The supreme court affirmed. Exercise of the water court’s retained jurisdiction was statutorily limited to preventing or curing injury to other water users, and the evidence presented by Centennial failed to establish that WAS would be unable, under the conditions imposed by the engineer for approval of the additional sources of replacement water, to deliver augmentation water sufficient to prevent injury to other water users. Accordingly, the water court’s dismissal of Centennial’s objection was proper.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.