Colorado Supreme Court Hears Water Rights Case

Defense claims Front Range Resources replacement plan triggers anti-speculation doctrine

The Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in a water rights case that concerns a claim that Front Range Resources’ plan for the withdrawal of water in the Lost Creek Basin aquifer violates the Anti-Speculation Doctrine, Colorado’s primary guiding statute for water rights law.

In 1879, Colorado became the first state to provide for distribution water. Colorado’s Anti-Speculation Doctrine stipulates that all water in Colorado is considered a public resource for beneficial use, but that use rights essentially amount to property rights when an individual appropriates water for beneficial use.

Colorado law states that “no appropriation shall occur based upon speculative sale or transfer to other persons,” one of the contention points at issue in the case.

Alan Curtis, attorney for defendant Lost Creek Land and Cattle Company argued Tuesday that the replacement plan consisted of new appropriations of water from new wells in addition to the increased appropriations from 31 existing wells, and that Front Range did not provide contracts for the use of that water. Curtis contended that evidence before the trial court also showed that Front Range claimed to use water anywhere in the three counties “and the service are of any entity with which front range contracts to provide water.”

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