Under current law, the Colorado water conservation board (board), subject to procedural requirements established to prevent injury to water rights and 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 act expands the number of years within a 10-year period that a renewable 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 act limits the duration that an expedited loan may be exercised for up to one year, and prohibits an applicant from seeking additional expedited loans regarding a water right following an approved expedited loan of that water right.
The act also expands the board's ability to use loaned water for instream flows 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 a proposed loan, the board must evaluate the proposed loan based on biological and scientific evidence presented, including a biological analysis performed by the division of parks and wildlife.
The state engineer will review a proposed loan and must consider any comments filed by parties notified of the application in determining whether the loaned water will not cause injury to other vested or conditionally decreed water rights, decreed exchanges of water, or undecreed existing exchanges of water that were administratively approved before the date that the loan application was filed. The filing fee is increased from $100 to $300.
The board is required to promulgate rules regarding the necessary steps for reviewing and accepting a loan for instream flow use to improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree.
The state engineer's decision to approve or deny a proposed loan may be appealed to a water judge, who is required to hear and determine the matter on an expedited basis using the procedures and standards established for matters rereferred to the water judge by a water referee.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)