U.S. Water News Online
DENVER -- About two-thirds of farmers coping with
drought-related problems in northeastern Colorado have received
permission to draw supplemental water from area wells.
Additional applications are pending under a new law that allows
well users along a section of the South Platte River to pump water if
they file water-replenishment plans with a water court judge by 2005.
Spring rains have provided surface water to help many farmers
during the planting season, and the well water will be available in
July and August as needed, State Engineer Hal Simpson said.
``I think we've been fortunate with the showers we had and spring
rains,'' Simpson said.
Forrest Leaf, a water consultant for the Central Colorado Water
Conservancy District, said the approval for two-thirds of the wells
is good news for farmers.
``Groundwater is a very big part of their irrigation, in some
cases half of their water supply,'' he said. ``The spring rains are
filling reservoirs, and those were senior water rights to the well
owners and prevented them from operating. Last year, we were a dust
Simpson has approved applications for farmers to draw from 1,800
About 1,500 farmers use groundwater to supplement surface water in
crop irrigation, municipal supplies and other uses on the South
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled this year that the state engineer
exceeded his authority in approving rules governing wells along the
The court unanimously supported long-standing water law that
states those with the oldest water rights have the highest priority
even in a drought.
The new law was enacted in the wake of the court ruling.
Many well owners opted to file their plans with the water court
under legislation passed last year that allows them to get temporary
water allocations approved year to year.
Simpson approved many of those plans, including requests from
Logan Well Users, Lower Logan Well Users, Dinsdale Brothers, Lowline
Ditch Co. and Sedgwick County Well Users.
He also approved a request from the Central Colorado Water
A decision is pending on the South Platte Water Users Association,
which affects about 350 wells.
Owners of about 700 wells who opted to take advantage of the new
law will wait another month until hearings can be held on their
plans, including Groundwater Appropriators of the South Platte.
Leaf said a delay in approval for that group was a big concern.
``That's going to impact a lot of farmers,'' Leaf said.
GASP manager Jack Odor said he expects approval for those wells
later after hearings are held.
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