High court upholds water ruling | SummitDaily.com

High court upholds water ruling

DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday upheld a ruling that allows the state engineer to set limits on pumping groundwater, a key issue for farmers around the state who are struggling through drought.The ruling comes in a case that involves about 1,000 well owners in the South Platte River Basin and it means they can continue to pump groundwater as they long as they replace it.The court upheld a ruling that the state engineer can approve augmentation plans and set limits, even when there is no evidence well owners are violating water rights.State law requires well owners to submit augmentation plans outlining how they expect to restore water to the river basin after they use it on their land.The Harmony Ditch Co. and others appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court for review of the water court’s decree approving an application for an augmentation plan that was filed by the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District.The water court, in its decree, imposed a curtailment against the well owners to limit the amount of water that could be pumped if they didn’t own the water rights.Harmony Ditch said the water court erred, arguing that curtailment of out-of-priority diversions is authorized only when the augmentation plan is not being operated in compliance with other terms and conditions of the decree.The state’s high court disagreed.”That’s good, because that finished the process. We can move on. By winning in court, we don’t have to fight the legal process,” said Greg Hertzke, water acquisitions manager for the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District.A spokesman for Harmony Ditch did not return a call seeking comment.

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