These are all of the water and agriculture bills proposed in the 2020 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.
None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.
Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in . They are color-coded by party.
Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.
Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.
Click on the Senate bill title to jump to its section:
HB20-1037 Augmentation Of Instream Flows (Coram (R)) [Arndt (D))
Fiscal Impact: None
Goal: Allow the state to use water rights it acquires for stream flow augmentation if the right was already so designated.
Clarifies that state water conservation board may apply to the water court for the ability to augment stream flows to preserve or improve natural environment to a reasonable degree by using an acquired water right that had been previously quantified and changed to include augmentation use, without any further changes to the water right. This is subject to any terms and conditions that are necessary to prevent injury to the owners of water rights affected by this use and the state must demonstrate its plan will not injure other water users’ undecreed existing exchanges of water to the extent they have already been administratively approved for.
Board can submit together with a water rights owner or by itself. Plan submitted to water court must also:
- Use water for augmentation only and for which augmentation use has been judicially approved
- Be subject to water rights for which historical use has been quantified
Augmentation water shall not be diverted within the specific stream reach by an exchange, plan for substitution, plan for augmentation, or other means that cause a reduction of the augmentation water added to the stream reach. It is subject to reasonable transit losses. If the plan requires making physical modifications to existing diversion structures, operator of plan must bear all reasonable construction costs and operational and maintenance costs.
This is mostly clarifying that the state can use these rights to increase flows as the bill only allows this process if the right to augmentation has already been judicially approved, but also improve the process of these augmentation rights to ensure no injury occurs to other water rights holders.
This could damage the water rights of ranchers and growers and municipalities. Anytime you are keeping more water in the river, you are running the risk of consequences unforeseen at water court.
SB20-025 Conservancy District Boards Art And Beautification Projects (Garcia (D)) [Buentello (D), Esgar (D)]
Fiscal Impact: None
Goal: Allow conservation boards to participate in water beautification projects and potentially offset some costs through federal income tax deductions.
Allows conservation boards to participate in artistic and beautification projects that improve aesthetics of waterways in their districts and consider this participation, and the development of parks and recreational facilities, a current expense of the district.
Additional Information: n/a
The purview of these conservation boards is to help conserve land through the development of parks and recreational facilities. It makes sense to also allow them to participate in projects that help waterways by making them more aesthetically pleasing, which will help increase the draw of an area to the public and make it easier to hold public support for conservation. Allowing the districts to consider all of this activity a current expense allow them to offset some of the cost through federal income tax deductions.
Making the land look nicer is not a part of what these boards are supposed to be doing: protect land and property from water and help create parks and recreational facilities. That is it. Expanding the goal to include beautification is a stretch too far.
SB20-048 Study Strengthening Water Anti-Speculation Law (Donovan (D), Coram (R)) [Roberts (D), Catlin (R)]
From the Water Resources Review Committee
Fiscal Impact: None
Goal: Study how state water anti-speculation laws could be strengthened to prevent violations.
Creates a working group inside the department of natural resources to study our current anti-speculation water laws and how they could be strengthened. Report due by August 15, 2021.
Group to consist of current or former employees of the department from the state engineer’s office and the water conservation board appointed by the executive director, one or more current employees of the attorney general’s office, one or more current or former employees of the judicial department appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and other stakeholders as the executive director determines would be helpful to promote the working group goals.
We are seeing some new types of water speculation that was not envisioned when the state constitution was written. We know it is happening and it affects a critical state resource. We need to pull together all of the people with a stake in this and come up with more modern solutions to preventing it. The bill directs the department of natural resources to include stakeholders who are helpful to promote the group, but leaves out the exact composition of the group because in the water community exact stakeholder groups end up becoming bloated and unworkable.
We know speculation is happening now and happening around the state so we need to bring solutions forward now, not convene a group to study the matter.
The stakeholder group is not totally defined and may end up excluding agriculture interests, who are the people most affected by speculation since they own over 80% of the water in the state, or conservation groups, who care deeply about this issue.