November 10, 2023 — ColoradoPolitics.com reports that state legislators wanting to address water conservation have proposed a ban on non-essential turf on commercial and public properties. This move, spearheaded by Denver Water, aims to replace water-intensive grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass with drought-resistant plants.
The General Assembly’s water resources and agriculture review committee, constrained to advancing a limited number of bills, chose to prioritize the turf ban while postponing a bill that would protect water rights for those engaging in conservation.
Abandonment vs. Conservation.
The committee chose not to move forward with a legislative proposal that would have permitted individuals with water rights—specifically, farmers and ranchers—to engage in water conservation practices without the risk of forfeiting their water rights. Historically and as ColoradoPolitics.com points out, these water rights holders have faced a disincentive to conserve water outside of government-sanctioned programs due to the possibility of their conserved water being legally deemed “abandoned,” resulting in the loss of their water rights. This has been a significant barrier to conservation efforts that could potentially enable agricultural producers to experiment with new crops or innovative irrigation methods without government intervention.
The proposed legislation would have introduced a requirement for water rights owners to submit a conservation plan to the state’s division engineer within a year of implementing any water-saving measures. This plan would safeguard the water rights from being classified as abandoned for a period of up to ten years. It is possible that the bill will resurface.