The Colorado Doctrine
Article 16, Colorado State Constitution
Fear of water monopolies. All Surface and Groundwater in Colorado is a public resource for beneficial use by public agencies and private persons.
Section 5 – “The water of every natural stream, not heretofore appropriated, within the State of Colorado, is hereby declared to be the property of the public.”
Pure Prior Appropriation – First in time, first in right
Section 6 – “The right to divert the unappropriated waters of any natural stream to beneficial uses shall never be denied. Priority of appropriation shall give the better right as between those using the water for the same purpose”
Private Condemnation. Water rights owners may build facilities on the lands of others to divert, extract or move water from a stream or aquifer to its place of use.
Section 7 – “All persons and corporations shall have the right of way across public, private and corporate lands for the construction of ditches, canals and flumes, for the purpose of conveying water…”
A Property Right. A water right is a right to use a portion of the public’s water resources. While not ownership, it is a property right. Water rights are not attached to the land and can be acquired and sold separate from land ownership.
Rivers and Streams are Conduits for the delivery of water. Water rights owners may use streams or aquifers for the transportation and storage of water. Impacts to the stream, the aquatic or riparian environments are not a consideration.
Domestic Preference – “…domestic purposes shall have the preference over those claiming for any other purpose,…agricultural purposes shall have preference over those using the same for manufacturing purposes.” (only used in condemnation)