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Colorado Groundwater Law: Colorado's System-Integration (Or Not?) of Groundwater and Surface Water

Ramsey L. Kropf, Proceedings of 49th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2003)

“Only when the well runs dry, do we learn the worth of water.” Benjamin Franklin. Colorado is a headwaters state, producing approximately 16 million acre-feet per year of water flows in its rivers,2 some surface water—some groundwater. Two statutes interact in Colorado to constitute groundwater management: the Colorado Ground Water Management Act of 1965,3 and the Water Right Determination and Administration Act of 1969.4 The paper also reviews management of Colorado's tributary groundwater, information about groundwater supplies and policy in the Denver metropolitan area, and a recent dispute in the South Platte River basin as a recent example of how Colorado's integrated legal regime operated in the face of the recent 2002 record drought. Finally, a few observations about the effectiveness of Colorado's system for protecting instream values are noted.