Under current law, the Colorado water conservation board (board), subject to procedural requirements established to prevent injury to water rights or decreed conditional water rights, may use loaned water for instream flows if the loaned water is used for preserving the natural environment of a stream reach that is subject to a decreed instream flow water right held by the board. The bill expands the number of years within a 10-year period that a loan may be exercised from 3 years to 5 years, but for no more than 3 consecutive years, and allows a loan to be renewed for up to 2 additional 10-year periods.
The bill also expands the board's ability to use loaned water for instream flows to allow loans to improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree pursuant to a decreed instream flow water right held by the board.
In considering whether to accept the new type of loan authorized by the bill, the board must evaluate the proposed loan based on a biological analysis performed by the division of parks and wildlife. The board is required to promulgate rules regarding the necessary steps for reviewing and accepting such a loan. The state or division engineer's decision to approve or deny a proposed loan may be appealed to a water judge, who is required to hear the matter on an expedited basis and to review the evidence presented to the state or division engineer on a de novo basis.
(Note: This summary applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house.)