Abandonment of Water Rights
Abandonment is the termination of an absolute water right in whole or in part as a result of the intent of the owner to discontinue permanently the use of all or part of the water available thereunder. Failure to apply a water right to beneficial use when water was available for a period of ten or more years results in a rebuttable presumption of abandonment. Once the rebuttable presumption is established through non-use, the burden shifts to the owner of the water right to prove that they did not intend to abandon the water right.
Every 10 years, the division engineer is required to present to the water court a list of water rights that the division engineer has found to be abandoned. The process and timeline of the decennial abandonment process are guided by statutory requirements as follows:
Division Engineer’s Abandonment List - The initial list of water rights determined to have been abandoned by the division engineer shall be prepared by July 1, 2020 with publication and notice mailed to the last known owner by July 31, 2020. Any person wishing to object to the inclusion of an absolute water right must file a statement of objection in writing with the division engineer by July 1, 2021.
Revised Abandonment List - The revised abandonment list is submitted to the water court, after being amended, if appropriate, from the Division Engineer’s Abandonment List; filed with the water court by December 31, 2021.
Any person who wishes to protest the inclusion of any water rights on the revised abandonment list shall file a written protest with the water clerk for the water court and provide a copy to the Division Engineer by June 30, 2022.
Water rights that cannot be included on the abandonment list are:
- Conditional water rights
- Federal Reserved water rights
- CWCB instream flow water rights
- Water rights which historically served land that is enrolled in a federal land conservation program
- Water rights that, were enrolled in:
- A water conservation program approved by a state agency, a water conservation district, or a water conservancy district
- A water conservation program established through formal written action or ordinance by a municipality or its municipal water supplier
- An approved land fallowing program as provided by law in order to conserve water
- A water banking program as provided by law
- A loan of water to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for instream flow use under section 37-83-105(2), C.R.S.
- Any contract or agreement with the Colorado Water Conservation Board that allows the board to use all or a part of a water right to preserve or improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree under section 37-92-102(3), C.R.S.