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2020 Abandonment Listing - Preserving your Water Rights

When was the last time you diverted the full amount decreed to that water right? If it has been more than a few years, then now is the time to think about the 2020 abandonment listing.

By statute, every ten years the Division Engineer must provide the water court with a list of all water rights that he or she believes have been abandoned over the last decade. While it is often easy to avoid having a water right placed on this list if action is taken before the list is compiled, if action is delayed until after the list has been submitted to the water court, it can be much more difficult to “save” a water right.

Partial use may not be enough to keep your water right off the list - water rights can be partially abandoned if they have consistently been diverted at less than their decreed rates.

The Division Engineer will begin compiling the list over the next two years. Here are some important dates to keep in mind:

  • July 1, 2020: Division Engineer mails/publishes preliminary abandonment list. This list is not provided to the water court, but is intended to allow water users to meet with Division staff if they believe that a water right has been listed by mistake. If you are concerned that one of your rights might be at risk of abandonment, your best strategy is probably to take action now to avoid being on this list.

  • July 1, 2021: Deadline to file statement of objection with Division Engineer if your water right was included on preliminary abandonment list.

  • December 31, 2021: Deadline for Division Engineer to revise the preliminary abandonment list and file it with water court. This is the date on which “saving” the water right requires presenting evidence to the water court rather than the Division Engineer. If your right is on the list at this point, it means that the Division Engineer is recommending to the court that the right be abandoned. Saving the right at this point becomes more difficult and more expensive.

  • June 30, 2022: Deadline to protest abandonment list with water court.

  • July 1, 2022: Court enters abandonment decree for rights that were not protested.

If you have a water right that you have not fully utilized in recent years and you are concerned that it may be at risk of abandonment, give us a call and we’ll help you develop a strategy to preserve the right. In some cases, this can be as simple as arranging for the water commissioner to observe you diverting the full decreed amount.

In other cases, the strategy can be more complicated (such as where a water user lacks the acreage necessary to justify diverting the full decreed right). Either way, we’re here to help our clients preserve their rights.

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