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Colorado's public lands are faced with new challenges but water and land management depend on working together. Read about the relationship between water and land in Colorado and how Coloradans are converging to restore Colorado's public lands in the Spring 2018 issue of Headwaters magazine.

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

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Water Education Colorado

State Engineer's Office Plans to Appeal Court Decision

The State Engineer's Office plans to appeal a water court decision that could affect water permitting and coalbed methane operations across the state.

In Durango, Judge Gregory Lyman ruled for ranchers who sued BP America and the State Engineer over a Colorado policy. Under it, gas and oil producers are allowed to treat produced water, a mining byproduct, as waste.

‘We've never permitted these structures before,’ says assistant state engineer Dick Wolfe. ‘It's not like the Empire Lodge case where we already had a process in place and the workload changed.

‘We've been working on this issue since at least 1999.’

The ranchers, William and Elizabeth Vance and James and Mary Theresa Fitsgerald, from Archuleta and La Plata counties, respectively, filed the case in 2005, arguing the methane producers' groundwater depletions could injure the ranchers' senior water rights.

‘Their concern was the coalbed methane on their property was going to affect their senior decreed tributary water rights,’ explains Sarah Klahn, the ranchers' attorney. ‘We didn't bring the case alleging they'd been injured. Coalbed methane is usually found with large quantities of water. We went to the State Engineer's office two years ago and asked them to (permit) the wells. They decided they didn't have to.’

According to the state's statistics, there are 3,909 coalbed methane wells in Colorado. Of the total, 1,994 are in the Raton Basin; 1,836 in the San Juan Basin; and 79 in the Piceance Basin. Lyman's decision came shortly before the State Engineer's release of studies on the Piceance and Raton basins.

Both Wolfe and Klahn say they expect legislators to take up the issue in 2008.

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