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Adjudication and permitting of water rights

There are two primary ways to obtain water rights: adjudicate or permit a new right or acquire and change a previously established water right to new uses. This section focuses on the creation of new water rights in Colorado and Utah. In Colorado, obtaining a water right requires showing intent, overt actions, and a specific plan to put water to a beneficial use; in some cases, an applicant may confirm a water right for a pre-existing use of water by showing proof that diversions were previously made in priority and the water was then applied to a beneficial use. In states with general adjudication procedures such as Utah, similar types of requirements apply.

Depending on the type of water right and details of the plan, other requirements may also apply. The anti-speculation doctrine requires applicants to show a need for water, and in the case of government entities, involves showings of future need based on land use planning and other factors. The “can and will” doctrine requires a showing of the overall feasibility of the project based on a number of factors, including availability of unappropriated water and any necessary permits, access to land, and the financial, economic and technical feasibility of the project. Demonstrating these requirements are met often involves working with experts in other disciplines such as environmental permitting, finance, and engineering.

Curtis, Justus, & Zahedi, LLC has extensive experience in cases seeking water rights for a wide variety of uses, including agricultural, municipal, industrial, recreational and other uses. These include water rights for groundwater, storage, direct flow, recharge, and recreational in-channel diversions. We also advise clients about the impact other claimed water rights may have on their operations.