Colorado Water Law
Water rights in Colorado are unique when compared to other parts of the United States. The use of water in this state is governed by what is known as the "Prior Appropriation System". This system of water allocation controls who uses how much water, the types of uses allowed, and when those waters can be used.*
A simplified way to explain this system is often referred to as "first in time, first in right." An appropriation is made when an individual physically takes water from a stream (or underground aquifer) and places that water to some type of beneficial use. The first person to appropriate water and apply that water to use has the first right to use that water within a particular stream system. This person (after receiving a court decree verifying their priority status) then becomes the senior water right holder on the stream, and that water right must be satisfied before any other water rights can be fulfilled.*
*Colorado Division of Water Resources
Informative and Helpful Links:
- The Douglas Creek and White River Conservation Districts are located within Division of Water Resources - Area 6 (Yampa, White, and North Platte River Basins).
- The Division 6 Office is located in Steamboat Springs.