The State of Colorado lawmakers have proposed a bill to strengthen their position in water lawsuits. This was prompted by a court loss to Farmers and Ranchers in a 2009 water dispute where farmers and ranchers argued that the state engineer failed to protect their water rights from gas wells.
The new bill would place the burden of proof on farmers and ranchers. Courts would have to presume the state engineer’s findings that drilling would not deplete surface water is correct unless farmers or ranchers can prove otherwise.
The state already has passed a bill that allows the state engineer to create maps that show where wells would affect surface water and if a well is outside of the at zone the water would not have to be replenished because it would be considered too deep to affect the surface water. Ranchers and Farmers have filed suit against this law as well.
Even if this bill passes it is likely to be challenged as the above bill is. Uncertainty looms for oil and gas production until these challenges are resolved.
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