June 20, 2012
(Denver) – Rep. Randy Fischer, author of a bill to address the damaging impacts of high groundwater levels in the South Platte River Basin, said today’s announcement by Gov. John Hickenlooper that he was powerless to fix the problem pointed out the need for changes in Colorado water law.
Gov. Hickenlooper met in Greeley yesterday with the Weld County commissioners and told them he had been advised by Attorney General John Suthers that the governor did not have the constitutional authority to allow utilities, farmers and homeowners to draw more water from their wells, reducing high groundwater levels that are flooding basements and ruining crops in large areas of the South Platte Basin. Such an action would interfere with senior water rights downstream, the governor said.
“We have to have greater flexibility in South Platte water administration,” said Rep. Fischer (D-Fort Collins), whose House Bill 12-1278, mandating a study of South Platte groundwater, was signed by the governor this year. “After the South Platte study is received by the legislature, I hope it will inform policies to improve Colorado’s efforts to maximize the beneficial use of water without causing injury to any water right owners.”
“For starters, we need to provide the governor and the state engineer with the authority to address just the kind of emergency conditions that exist in the South Platte today — extreme drought combined with record high groundwater levels,” Rep. Fischer said.