Hundreds of Water Rights Will Be Abandoned in 2020: How to Make Sure Your Right Isn't One of Them.
This summer, the Division of Water Resources and the Water Court will begin a once-every-decade process that will result in the abandonment of numerous water rights. By understanding this process, you can minimize the risk that your water rights will be on that list. If they are, there are ways to maximize your chances of removing them from the list.
Step One: Stay Off the List
On July 1, 2020, the Division Engineer will publish a “Proposed Abandonment List,” which will include all the water rights that the Division Engineer believes have been abandoned during the last ten years. By July 31, 2020, the Division Engineer will send a copy of that list to the last known owner of each of the listed water rights. For most, this is the first time they will become aware that one of their water rights is on the list. However, the prudent water right owner will act now to make sure that their rights are not on the list before it is published. If you believe that one of your water rights (or a portion of one of your rights) may be included on the Proposed Abandonment List, please contact our office and we would be happy to guide you through the steps to minimize that risk.
Step Two: If Your Water Right is on the Proposed Abandonment List, File an Objection with the Division Engineer to Have it Removed
If you miss Step One and your water right is listed on the Proposed Abandonment List, you have until July 31, 2021, to file a Statement of Objection with the Division Engineer. The Division Engineer will then have until December 31, 2021, to consider Statements of Objection, but it is often in your best interest to file your Objection well before the July 31 deadline. This will allow us to start discussions with the Division Engineer and your Water Commissioner in time to explore ways to rehabilitate the right over the course of an irrigation season. Starting this process early during the objection period often will improve your odds.
Step Three: If Your Right is Listed on the Revised Abandonment List Filed with the Water Court, File a Written Protest
If you weren’t able to get your water right off the abandonment list with Step One or Step Two, things may be a little more serious. In Step Three, the Division Engineer files a formal “Revised Abandonment List” with the water court by December 31, 2021. After that list is filed, a water right owner must work through the water court process if they wish to have their water right removed from the list. This is more formal and often more expensive than resolving the issue while the list is before the Division Engineer. While our goal is to help our clients get their water rights off the list before this stage of the proceedings, if you find yourself at Step Three, there often are steps we can recommend to increase your odds of success before the water court.
The best and least expensive time to take action to protect your water right is now, before the more formal process begins. If you believe one of your water rights may be at risk, please feel free to call us and we’ll be happy to guide you through the process.