(CN) – The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed a decision nixing three subdivisions on Colorado’s Front Range because the developers can’t prove there is enough water to go around.
Buffalo Park Development Co. filed a plan in 1994 to drill 205 wells for five new subdivisions in the South Platte River Basin of Jefferson County, on the Colorado Front Range.
Owners of existing wells opposed the development, providing an expert witness who testified in water court that groundwater levels already had dropped so much that some owners had to drill deeper.
The developers’ expert witness acknowledged that natural precipitation did not appear to be replenishing the water table.
Although Buffalo Park had come up with a plan to augment surface waters flowing through the hilly country, it failed to provide the water court with a plan to replenish the groundwater its subdivisions would tap.
Since Colorado water law recognizes a hydrological connection between wells in the same drainage, the water court refused to grant permits for three of the five subdivisions.
Colorado Supreme Court agreed that Buffalo Park had not proved there was enough unclaimed water to supply all five new subdivisions.
Justice Hobbs, who wrote the en banc opinion, wrote that the developer had been given “ample opportunity” to provide a groundwater augmentation plan. “Buffalo Park … contends we must now order the water court to reopen its 15 year-old proceedings. We decline to do so, and uphold the water court’s judgment.”
Colorado’s Supreme Court pointed out in a footnote that water in the South Platte River Basin already is over-appropriated.
Justices Coats and Eid dissented, writing that the developer should have been granted the right to amend its plan based on a differing interpretation of the meaning of “available” water.