THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
TROUT UNLIMITED recently won a major Colorado Supreme Court case that recognizes there are limits to the water municipal suppliers may claim for future population growth.
In 2004, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and San Juan Water Conservancy District received a Durango water court decree for enough reservoir water for more than 300,000 people – projected out nearly a century to the year 2100.
Yet, in 2005 the Pagosa district served only 9,500 people with a modest 2,000 acre-feet of water (325,851 gallons per acre).
On appeal, Trout Unlimited convinced the Supreme Court that the amount of water claimed, predicted population growth and 100-year time frame were unrealistic. Colorado’s anti-speculation doctrine prohibits hoarding water without a reasonable plan for putting it to beneficial use.
Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs wrote the unanimous decision overturning the lower court.
Justice Hobbs found that municipal suppliers must take into account, among other factors, how water conservation measures and reuse can reduce future municipal water demand.
Closer to home, Colorado Springs Utilities should take notice and seriously undertake conservation and reuse of its existing water supplies to mitigate that city’s Southern Delivery System plan of taking yet more water out of Lake Pueblo to the detriment of Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley.
We congratulate Trout Unlimited for fighting to protect the San Juan River trout fishery and Justice Hobbs for giving judicial weight to the role of conservation and reuse in water law.