Water Rights Solutions

No two rivers are the same – naturally or in the way they are operated to support Colorado’s way of life. Colorado Water Trust works directly with water rights owners in a neutral and collaborative manner to find solutions that restore flows to their unique river.

When Colorado Water Trust receives a project lead from an interested water user, we begin our initial investigation into the water rights being offered. Questions include:

  • How much water is it?
  • Is it a junior or senior water right?
  • What is its decreed use?
  • What other water rights are on the river?
  • How much water is needed to restore a healthy level of flows for this particular river?
  • Are there any Instream Flow rights on the river already?

Once we establish a lead as a viable project, we present a menu of options to the water user to see what best fits their goals.

Tools we use:


Water Rights Sale or Donation

A sale or donation is a permanent transfer of a water right to instream flow use. It may require full year or partial year separation of the water from the land, acceptance by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and water court approval. Donations may be tax deductible (consult your attorney).

Water Rights Long-Term Lease
Long-term leases allow the CWCB to use a lessee’s water right for an agreed-upon term to restore streamflows. They typically require a transfer to instream flow use, may require full-year or partial-year separation of the water from the land, acceptance by CWCB, and water court approval. Leases can be very flexible to accommodate the needs of the water user.

Water Rights Short-Term Lease
Short-term leases allow the CWCB to use a lessee’s water in 3-of-10 years to restore streamflows. Typically, these leases require partnership with the CWCB, and require only a quick administrative process instead of water court approval. In a given year, these can be activated upon mutual agreement or by a low-streamflow trigger.

Water Rights Agreements
Private agreements between the water owner and the Colorado Water Trust can be implemented to restore streamflows. These typically include non-diversion agreements and strategically timed reservoir releases.

Water Conservation Program
Legislation originally passed in 2013 allows water right owners to reduce their water use for 5 years in a 10-year period without penalty to their water rights. Sometimes, that reduction of use can have restorative benefits to rivers. The Colorado Water Trust works with owners to develop the conservation program and to secure the necessary approvals.

Request For Water Process

Beginning in 2018, the Colorado Water Trust, in partnership with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), piloted a Request for Water Acquisitions Process: a streamlined approach to water transactions to benefit the environment on streams throughout the state. This Process is confidential, completely voluntary and open to all water right owners, including agricultural, municipal, industrial, or other users.