Monday, April 21, 2008

Ritter Signs Water Bill

Gov. Bill Ritter signed Monday a bill that will allow farmers and ranchers to leave water to which they have appropriation rights in a stream or river and lease or lend the water rights for conservation purposes or instream use.

The "Healthy Rivers Act" will, for the first time in Colorado history, take away the disincentive to conserve water created by the principle of "historic consumptive use," which requires holders of water rights to maintain, year-to-year, their use of water or lose the right to use it.

HB 1280 thus allows the Colorado Water Conservation Board to gain access to flows needed for the state's burgeoning river recreation industry.

"For too long, ranchers and farmers could lose their water rights if they didn't use all the water they were given annually," bill sponsor Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, said. “That’s backwards. We live in a large, dry western state that's susceptible to drought, and it's time we reward – not punish – those who conserve. This legislation gives landowners an important incentive to turn off the tap."

The bill was approved in the House, 59-6, and in the Senate, 32-2, before heading to Ritter's desk. It was carried in the Senate by Democrat Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village.