Commercial production of ethanol in the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Final Report Page: 96 of 222
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If the Division. determines that the proposed geothermal activity will
affect water rights, the operator must acquire water rights. In Colorado the procedure
for perfecting rights to groundwater depends on whether the Division classifies the
water as 1) groundwater tributary to a stream; 2) groundwater in a designated basin; or
3) non-tributary, non-designated groundwater. There are substantive rules for dealing
Appropriation of groundwater tributary to a stream is regulated under the
Water Right Determination and Administration Act of 1969 (Colo. Rev. Stat., 1973,
37-92-101 to 37-92-602. Groundwater is presumed tributary to a stream if it is hydro-
logically connected to a stream and "can influence the rate or direction of movement of
the water" in the stream (Colo. Rev. Stat.; 1973, 37-92-103(11)).
A person who proposes to drill a well which withdraws groundwater tribu-
tary to a stream must obtain a permit from the State Engineer. The State Engineer
must issue the permit if he concludes that: 1) there is unappropriated water available;
2) the vested rights of other appropriators will not be injured; and 3) the well is at least
600 feet from existing wells.
Receipt of this permit, however, enables the driller only to construct the
well and withdraw water. If the geothermal fluid will be consumptively used, the
operator is required to file an application for water rights in the division water court.
The water court relies heavily on the State Engineer's decision whether to grant a
permit to drill (construct) a well before granting a "conditional" water right.
A conditional water right grants applicant a specific priority date for the
right, if he completes the appropriation with reasonable diligence. Once completed, a
"final" water right may be granted after repeating the procedure in the division water
court (Gould, 1979).
Again, it should be noted that the applicant need apply to the water court
only if a consumptive use of water is anticipated. If the withdrawn geothermal fluid is
in a closed system with only heat being extracted and all brine reinjected, no court-
issued water right would likely be needed (Coe and Forman, 1980).
If a driller plans consumptive use of groundwater from a designated
groundwater basin, the Groundwater Management Act controls (Colo. Rev. Stat., 1973,
37-90-101 to 37-90-141). This Act defines designated groundwater as that water
within the geographic boundaries of a designated groundwater basin (Colo. Rev. Stat.,
1973, 37-90-103(6) to 90-103(8)) as established by the Groundwater Commission.
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Hewlett, E.M.; Erickson, M.V.; Ferguson, C.D.; Sherwood, P.B.; Boswell, B.S.; Walter, K.M. et al. Commercial production of ethanol in the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Final Report, report, July 1, 1983; United States. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc874948/m1/96/: accessed April 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.