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Rob Viehl
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Instream Flow Program FAQs



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Convey Entire Water RightUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Do I have to convey my entire water right to the state?
The CWCB does not need to hold the title to the entire water right to use it for instream flow purposes. The statutes provide that the Board can acquire "water, water rights or interests in water" to preserve or improve the natural environment. The Board can also lease agricultural water rights on a temporary basis to preserve or improve the natural environment.
Stream & Lake Protection
Donated or Leased Water RightsUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
What happens to my water right if I donate or lease it to the state?
In Colorado, water rights are property rights that are decreed by the Water Court for a specific use. In order to use the water right for a different purpose, the water right needs to be changed by the court. When water rights are donated or leased to CWCB, the terms and conditions of the transfer, as well as any future obligations are outlined in a separate contract called an Acquisition Agreement.

Once the change is approved by the court, the water rights are held by the CWCB, and are monitored and administered according to the terms of the contract and the new court decree. Under certain circumstances, a water user can temporarily loan an agricultural water right to the Board without the need for water court approval (see 37-83-105(2) C.R.S.)
Stream & Lake Protection
Instream Flow DefinitionUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
What is an instream flow?
An instream flow is a new junior water right held exclusively by the Board for the purpose of preserving the natural environment to a reasonable degree. Instream flow water rights are decreed for a specific rate of flow through a specific reach of stream. An instream flow water right has an upper and lower terminus, usually identified as the confluence with another stream, and is administered as any other water right in Colorado according to the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation.
Stream & Lake Protection
Instream Flow Water Right ImpactsUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Can an instream flow water right impact my water right?
 An instream flow is a new junior water right, and as such, cannot affect senior decreed water rights being used for decreed purposes.  Additionally, the statutes provide that an instream flow appropriation shall be subject to the present uses or exchanges of water being made by other water users "pursuant to appropriation or practices in existence on the date of such appropriation." If you decide to sell or change your water right to another location or use, the statutes allow vested water right holders to review the proposed change for potential impacts, and to request terms and conditions in the new decree to prevent injury to their vested water rights. This statutory protection from injury extends to instream flow water rights.
Stream & Lake Protection
Satellite Stream Gages Monitoring Stream FlowsUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
How do CWCB staff use satellite-linked stream gages to monitor stream flows?
The State Engineer's Office (SEO) and United States Geological Survey Water Science Center (USGS) operate a network of over 700 satellite stream gages in Colorado. The CWCB staff works cooperatively with both these agencies to help fund and employ the latest technology to remotely monitor stream flows on a near-real time basis at these gages. Select gages are monitored by CWCB staff via the state's SMS alert system in order to track stream conditions for both low flow and flood flow occurrences. The SMS alert system allows stream flow information transmitted via satellite to be immediately forwarded to staff's e-mail and cell phones. This data is also utilized in the Instream Flow and Flood Decision Support Systems to allow staff to graphically map and track the alerts on a statewide basis.
Stream & Lake Protection
Statement of Opposition DefinitionUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
What is a Statement of Opposition?
A Statement of Opposition is a legal pleading filed with the Water Court in a pending water right case. The pleading typically seeks terms and conditions to protect vested water rights. The CWCB files Statements of Opposition to new water right applications which have the potential to injure decreed instream flow or natural lake level water rights. The majority of Statements of Opposition filed by the CWCB are resolved by stipulations which provide full protection for the instream flow or natural lake level water rights.
Stream & Lake Protection
Water Acquistion DefinitionUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
What is a water acquisition?
When the Colorado legislature created the Instream Flow Program in 1973, it authorized the Board to appropriate and acquire water rights to preserve the natural environment of streams and lakes in the state. In 2002, the legislature broadened the CWCB's authority to allow water acquisitions to IMPROVE the natural environment. CWCB staff works with water right owners and conservation groups to acquire existing, decreed water rights on a strictly voluntary basis to achieve these purposes.
The CWCB can acquire water by "purchase, bequest, donation, devise, lease, exchange or any other contractual agreement."
Stream & Lake Protection