By Hailey Sams | SUN Intern
The Colorado Division of Water Resources (CDWR) met Wednesday, Aug. 9, to go over and develop water measurement rules for Division 7.
According to its water administration Web page, the Division of Water Resources (DWR) “has focused on measurement rules in recognition of the importance of measuring both surface water and groundwater diversions. DWR is now beginning a formal effort to develop measurement rules in Division 7 by conducting stakeholder meetings in Southwestern Colorado in late July and early August.”
A draft of 18 possible rules was released and can be found at https://swwcd.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/2023-07-25-Rules-for-Initial-Stakeholder-Meetings.pdf.
The rules are based off of the rules appointed in Division 6.
The CDWR is “in charge by law to make sure the people that divert water off the river according to their water rights, or pump water out of the ground do it according to their water right and … don’t injure other people” said Kevin Ryan, state engineer for the CDWR, at the Aug. 9 stakeholder meeting. Injury is used to describe when someone’s water flow is negatively impacted by an upstream user.
Why do we need
A presentation shown at the Aug. 9 stakeholder meeting indicates the CDWR determined that measurement was needed to ensure that water rights would take the decreed amount of water and to distribute the available water to as many water rights as possible using this data. Measuring the amount of water that is taken is vital to measuring how many water rights can be given. Measurement data also helps protect individual water rights and Colorado water users by documenting water usage overall.
Why/what are the rules and regulations?
According to the presentation, water measurement rules are deemed necessary for multiple reasons, including:
• Consistency and transparency for all water users.
• To recognize all types of diversions.
• To plan for options and alternatives through technical and administrative guidance.
• To involve stakeholders.
• Efficient implementation.
The rules serve as a guide that “provides a clear path for both water users and DWR regarding implementation of statutory authority” according to the CDWR’s presentation, which adds, “rules define how statutory authority will be executed.”
This includes answering questions such as:
• What is an adequate headgate?
• When is a headgate necessary?
• What is an adequate measuring device?
• When is a measuring device necessary?
• How is data recorded and reported?
A water right is “the right to divert water for beneficial use” according to the presentation. Administering water rights considers the “available flow in the natural stream” as well as the “list of water rights by priority.”
According to the presentation and the agency’s website, administration helps ensure that all water rights are getting their agreed amount and help fix when a right is not. Rights and administration have become more important as many basins in Colorado and water sources are in transition, which means the levels may be changing due to climate change and more demands of water rights.
In order to administer a water right, the CDWR’s presentation states that the division engineer needs:
• A decree for beneficial use, including amounts, dates and an accurate location.
• A headgate or control structure.
• A measuring device.
• A known location that a water user will beneficially use.
A functioning headgate is needed to be an administered diversion. The headgate must be:
• Easily adjusted to control the amount of water entering a diversion.
• Close to a measuring device.
Measuring methods, the presentation and website indicate, include measuring devices and alternative measuring methods.
Measurement devices are typically used at diversions. These include flumes, which measure how the water level rises when it reaches an obstruction, and weirs.
Alternative measurement methods measure flow indirectly, which include float tests and rated sections.
In order for an alternative method to be approved, it requires assumptions, calculations, predictable field conditions and a verification from the division engineer.
Records and reporting
According to the presentation, recording data from diversions are important because:
• The value of a water right is based on its beneficial use.
• To protect against abandonment.
• To optimize operations.
• To provide accurate data on Colorado water use to other states.
• For transparency, the records are public and it builds trust and security in the system.
Reporting diversions can be done in a number of ways. A water commissioner can visit a diversion and record, and the water user should make frequent visits to the diversion and can record data themselves. The CDWR will accept user supplied data, the presentation notes.
According to the presentation, the existing authority states that “the owners (of ditches, etc.)…shall erect where necessary…a suitable and proper headgate…to control the water…and proper measuring flumes, weirds, and devices”.
The proposed rules have stricter guidelines on what “where necessary” actually means.
With the expansion of these rules and regulations, owners of diverters and beneficial users of surface and groundwater, the presentation states, will better understand when a headgate and measuring device is needed, and will have better protected water rights.
The meeting included little discussion, and most questions were asked about clarifications with the rules and regarding personal division requirements.
The next steps will be to collect all stakeholder comments and changes and revise the rules, then to file with the water court and move to get the rules approved with a judge.
Protests against the rules are due to the court by the end of the second month after they are filed, after which the judge will set the schedule and deadlines and if a hearing is needed due to protests.
Once the judge approves the rules, there is a phase-in process of 12 to 24 months, according to the presentation.
For division structures with capacity or total water rights greater than or equal to 5.0 cubic feet per second (cfs), the deadline would be 18 months after the effective date of the rules.
For structures with less than greater than or equal to 2.0 cfs and less than 5.0 cfs, the deadline would be 18 months from the effective date.
Structures less than 2.0 cfs would have a deadline of 24 months after the date.
Reservoirs with less than 5.0 acre-feet would have a deadline of 12 months, and ones with less than 5.0 acre-feet would be 24 months after the effective date, according to the rules.
If you have questions or comments, email Kevin Rein at email@example.com or Jason Ullman at Jason.Ullmann@state.co.us.