In Colorado, water is allocated according to complex state water laws, most of which generally incorporate the doctrine of prior appropriation. The prior appropriation system of water allocation dictates that the first person that appropriates water and applies it to beneficial use has the first right to the water, i.e. “first in time, first in right”. Water cannot be used without possession of a water right, which in most states is regarded as a property right.

Water rights matters often require the resources of an attorney-engineer team to evaluate and develop water supplies successfully within a legal and technical framework, and to resolve the issues normally encountered in such matters.   Water resources engineers are often called upon to provide engineering analyses related to obtaining a water right, changing a water right for a different use (transfer), preparing augmentation plans and substitute water supply plans, and protecting a water right.

Augmentation plans define water requirements, consumptive uses, water supply, and available water rights, and identify those senior water rights that must be protected from threats imposed by junior water rights and changes of use.  We can assist water users in developing a plan from initial concept through the planning process and Water Court, to implementation as the project progresses.

Substitute Water Supply Plans (SWSP) allow water consumers to use their water rights as they are completing a Water Court application.  SWSPs allow for short term augmentation plans to operate without a Water Court approved plan as long as the plan does not exceed five years. We can help clients to develop SWSPs for short term use or to assist projects under certain circumstances when pending Water Court applications cause project completion delays.

Changes of Water Rights are often necessary to change water rights historically used for agriculture to municipal or augmentation uses.  These studies entail the identification of historically irrigated crop types, the consumptive use analysis, and the preparation of expert reports of a water rights change case and supporting expert testimony in Water Court.

Expert testimony is often a critical part of water right adjudication and water right protection. When engineering or legal issues with a water right application are not resolved through negotiation, expert testimony is presented in a legal proceeding, such as a trial or administrative hearing. In Colorado, expert testimony regarding water rights is most often presented in Water Court. In addition, expert testimony may also be required in order to resolve damage claims, such as operational or drainage issues with water related activities.

Additionally, we provide the following water resources engineering services:

Water Supply Engineering

  • Conceptual design and master planning
  • Projection of future demands
  • Identification of potential water supply sources
  • Water development and acquisition strategies
  • Evaluation of existing storage, treatment, and distribution systems
  • Economic analyses

Water Resources Improvements

  • Water Infrastructure Planning and Design
    • Design of pipelines, canals, headgate diversion structures, small dams, water supply wells, pumping systems, hydro-power generation systems, storage facilities, small treatment systems, and irrigation systems
    • Operation of small water systems
    • Preparation of bidding documents
    • Project management and construction observation
    • Permitting and regulatory compliance
  • Dam Breach and Inundation Mapping
  • Floodplain Modeling
  • Stream Restoration
  • Levees and Flood Control
  • Hydrographic Surveys