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Colorado Water Trust Initiates Pilot Water Leasing

The Colorado snow pack this winter was 62 percent below its average. To maintain sufficient river and stream flows, the Colorado Water Trust is seeking direct flow or storage water rights for short-term lease into the state's Instream Flow program for the summer and fall seasons.
Colorado Water Trust

Colorado is preparing for drought conditions. According to a Natural Resources Conservation Service forecast, stream flow will be below average to well below average in all basins statewide, the result of low snow pack, a dry spring and a warmer than usual March.

This year, the Colorado Water Trust (CWT) intends to use the state's short-term leasing statute for the first time to put water back in the state's rivers, while compensating water users at fair market value for choosing to participate in the program. Under the pilot program, CWT will lease water from willing water users to place into the state's Instream Flow program. An instream flow water right is treated by Colorado's water allocation system like any other water right, but is decreed for nonconsumptive, in-channel use.

The Colorado short-term leasing statute, created with widespread bipartisan support in 2003, allows water users to temporarily loan their water to the state's rivers and streams via an expedited state administrative approval procedure.

Under the state statute, CWT facilitates and pays for pilot program leases. The law provides protection for both those leasing their water and other water users. CWT is coordinating with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to build the infrastructure to implement expedited short-term leases.

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May 19, 2019, 8:20 am PDT

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