Ground-water use in Colorado is increasing, both in absolute withdrawals and in relation to surface-water uses. In spite of its significance as a resource, the legal rules governing the allocation, use, and protection of ground water are of relatively recent origin and continue to evolve as our understanding and knowledge of the dynamics of this resource improve. The primary objectives of ground-water law are to
- Regulate the rate of ground-water depletion in aquifers for which recharge is insufficient to meet demands;
- Regulate the rate of depletion in aquifers that contribute to the supply and flow of adjacent surface water;
- Protect aquifers from pollution; and
- Regulate the extraction or injection of ground water in areas prone to geologic instability.
The State Engineer for the State of Colorado (http://water.state.co.us/) is authorized by statute to administer the waters of the state. This authority includes responsibility for the administration and distribution of the state’s waters, the promulgation of rules and regulations, the collection of data on water supply, the compliance of interstate compact commitments, and the enforcement of the laws imposed by statute and by order of the courts. To accomplish these responsibilities, the state is divided into seven water divisions with boundaries that correspond to the major river watershed boundaries (Figure 3.1). Each water division is staffed with its own division engineers.