IP-8-2012 (June 2012)
Author: J. Craig Green
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In next November’s election, voters may be asked to destroy Colorado’s 160-year-old system of water rights. A pair of ballot proposals, for which signatures are currently being collected, would essentially confiscate the water rights of cities, water districts, farmers, and ranchers by making them subordinate to the whims of any Colorado citizen who complains to a court about their legal status.
The Colorado Constitution has always recognized water as a public resource, but has also made it subject to claims for private uses. Under the Constitution, water rights can be claimed for beneficial purposes such as irrigation, domestic and city uses, among many others. Farmers and breweries can own water rights, as can cities.
However, the authors of this year’s proposed ballot initiatives #3 and #45 want to eliminate Colorado’s constitutional language which recognizes long-established private and public claims to water, including those established long before Colorado became a state.