The general assembly declares that the state of Colorado claims the right to all moisture suspended in the atmosphere which falls or is artificially induced to fall within its borders. Said moisture is declared to be the property of the people of this state, dedicated to their use pursuant to sections 5 and 6 of article XVI of the Colorado constitution and as otherwise provided by law.
—From the constitution of the state of Colorado
Things may be changing in the state of Colorado. For years it was illegal for home owners to collect the rain that fell on their roofs — the rain needed to fall to the ground so it could flow into surrounding creeks and streams. The water in those creeks and streams belonged to the farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that had inherited or bought the water rights. The fact that most of that rainwater would have sunk into the ground or evaporated didn’t make any difference.
Apparently violators of the law weren’t prosecuted as long as they were discreet and didn’t collect too much water. And in 2009 the law was changed so people who pumped their water from wells were allowed to collect rainwater, with some reasonable restrictions.
Now, thanks to a bill passed by the house of representatives in March, all small users may be allowed to save rainwater. I can’t find out if the senate approved it, but at any rate, things are clearly starting to change.
I was intrigued by the subject because Andy and I had our own water rights problem. Before we drilled our well we obtained a permit from the state,
but that didn’t protect us from being threatened by a Federal lawsuit accusing us of trespassing on the water rights of the U. S. Government and some Indian tribes.
The first thing we did was to get out a map and see where water in our area was flowing. We were clearly not in the water basin the suit was talking about, so we went to a lawyer. He said he wouldn’t even have talked to us if he thought we were legitimately part of the the suit — matters like this take years to resolve and can cost hundred of thousands of dollars. We would have had to join the other plaintiffs in the suit.
But he did agree with our assessment, so he phoned the relevant attorneys, explained the situation, and said we wouldn’t countersue if they took our name off the suit. They did, so for a few hundred dollars we could heave a sigh of relief. I often joke about lawyers, but we were grateful that this one!
Have you ever been threatened with a lawsuit?
June 17, 2015