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Plans for augmentation, exchange, and recharge

Plans for augmentation, exchange and recharge are at the forefront of Colorado’s increasingly complex water administration. These plans attempt to maximize the use of the State’s limited water resources. A plan for augmentation allows a water user to divert water out of priority by developing a plan and terms and conditions to prevent injury to other water users. Most augmentation plans are developed for junior wells and provide replacement water to more senior surface water rights at times when they are calling for water.

Similarly, a water exchange involves an upstream out-of-priority diversion and delivery of a substitute supply to the calling senior water right above its point of diversion. In Colorado, exchanges may be operated administratively when stream flow conditions permit or may be decreed a priority to be able to call out more junior water rights that would prevent the exchange from operating. In each case, the applicant must demonstrate that the plan will not injure other water rights.

Recharge projects are designed to replenish aquifers by placing water in a surface basin and allowing it to settle into the ground. The recharged water flows through the aquifer and returns to the stream system over time. Recharge diversions are typically made during times of high water availability, when the junior water rights are in priority. The lagged flows then accrete to the stream during periods of lower water availability and may be claimed as replacement supplies in augmentation plans.   

Proceedings for augmentation, exchange and recharge plans involve water administration at multiple locations on a stream and also the interaction of the surface stream and aquifer. In light of the difficulty of measuring sub-surface groundwater movement, these plans also typically involve complex accounting and calculations on an ongoing basis.

Curtis, Justus, & Zahedi, LLC has extensive experience in these complex proceedings, both on behalf of applicants developing projects and representing opposers concerned about injury from another party’s plan. We work with technical experts in the fields of water resources, geology and water quality as necessary to provide comprehensive representation on these issues.