Real Estate Water Rights and Resources
Colorado real estate is an exciting investment! While water rights and resources might get overlooked when you’re house hunting, it’s important to gather this information for any real estate that peaks your interest—especially if it’s a rural mountain property.
Role of Colorado Division of Water ResourcesYour real estate agent is a phenomenal resource! In addition, the Colorado Division of Water Resources is a valuable source for water rights. The Colorado Division of Water Resources issues water well permits, administers water rights, monitors stream flow and water use, inspects dams for safety, maintains databases of Colorado water information and represents Colorado in interstate water compact proceedings. By law, every new well in the state that diverts groundwater must have a well permit.
What to Ask?
Here are some questions that you can ask if you have water right questions about potential properties:
-Individual on-lot wells—If there is a residence on the property, ask if it’s served by an individual on-lot well or central water supply system. If served by a well, ask questions about the well. How old is it? Is it registered with the Division of Water Resources? If it was put to use prior to May 8, 1972, it may or may not be registered.
--The Division of Water Resources maintains all well permit files. Files usually contain useful information about the well. To find the appropriate file, try to obtain the well permit number, or at a minimum, the section, township and range location of the well and the name of the party that may have obtained the well permit. Next, if you want to obtain copies of files, contact the Records Section of the Division of Water Resources office at 303-866-3581.
--Research the water restrictions for the on-lot well. Some wells limit the use of groundwater to in-house uses only, so using water for ponds, horses, etc. might be restricted.
-Well pumping rates—Ask the seller or realtor for the current pumping rate of the well. Well pumping rates are measured in gallons per minute. Prior to purchasing a property, consider having a well pump test done by a qualified party for the wells’ pump rate, such as a Colorado licensed pump installer or water well driller.
-Well water quality, public health and safety—Ask about the current water quality. Prior to purchasing the property, consider having the well water tested by a state-certified laboratory. The Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment can be contacted at 303-692-3500, and can provide a listing of state-certified laboratories in Colorado. Information may also be accessed from their website at https://www.colorado.gov/cdphe/wqcd wqhom.asp.
-Do an on-site visual inspection of the well and property you are thinking of purchasing. Look for the following:
--Is the well physically located on the property?
--Does the location of the well allow for easy access for repair and maintenance?
--Does the well appear to be in a sanitary condition?
--Is the ground surface around the well head sloped such that there would be positive surface drainage away from it?
--Is the well casing visibly sticking up above the ground surface, and is there a weather-tight seal on top of the casing?
-Central Water Supply Systems—If purchasing property served by a central water supply system, find out what you can about the system and the supplier.
--Is the water supply from central wells or treated surface water supplies, such as a reservoir?
--Who is responsible for operating and maintaining the system?
--Consider contacting the water supplier and asking about the reliability of the system and find out the fee structure. Ask about allowed water uses. You may be able to obtain water quality information as well. A good source of contact information for water suppliers is the Colorado Water Congress at 303-837-0812.
-Other Water Rights—The property may have other water rights associated with it. The source of these water rights could be from rivers and streams, reservoirs, transmountain waters or other wells. The water could be conveyed to the property by direct pumping from the river or stream, but more typically, conveyance is by way of a ditch or lateral, canal or possibly through a pipeline.
Research and Verify
Before purchasing property, you’ll want to research and verify water rights associated with the property. Ask to see any contractual agreement with a ditch company or supplier, or stock certificates of ownership of shares of water. Sometimes there is information on the property deed regarding water rights or on a special water rights deed. Obtain a copy of the decree if there is one involved. The Colorado Division of Water Resources maintains a database of water rights that are decreed through the water courts. This database can be searched by location (quarter/quarter and quarter section, section number, township and range) to see if any water right exists at a specified location. Copies can be acquired for a nominal fee. Additionally, you can search the online water rights database.
Contact Code of the West Real Estate with any water rights and resources questions. We would love to help!