Community Agriculture Alliance: Looking for rural living? Know your water source
February 8, 2018
Are you considering the purchase of a home or vacant land in a rural county area? Know what your water source will be first. Your local Division of Water Resources staff is here to help.
If you are purchasing a vacant lot, typically the water source will be a drilled well. Property owners may also be able to construct an infiltration gallery well (shallow well) or develop a naturally flowing spring if one exists on the property. The construction of any type of well requires a well permit from the State Engineer's Office before construction.
Colorado has two different classes of wells permits — those that are exempt from water rights administration and are not administered under the priority system, and those that are nonexempt and are governed by the priority system and often require a plan for augmentation.
If the lot is located in a basin considered to be over-appropriated — a term used when a surface water drainage system has more decreed water rights claims on the system than can be satisfied by the physical supply of water available — and is less than 35 acres, it may be possible to obtain an exempt well permit for in-house use only.
On the other hand, if the lot is not located in an over-appropriated basin or is greater than 35 acres, it may be possible to obtain an exempt well permit limited to use within three single-family dwellings, irrigation of one acre of lawn and garden and watering of domestic animals and livestock.
In both cases, the well permit will be limited to a pumping rate of no more than 15 gallons per minute. To be certain that a well permit can be issued and for what uses, you should call your local Division of Water Resources office in Craig or Steamboat Springs or the State Engineer's Office in Denver.
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Except in limited cases, an exempt well permit will not be issued where either a municipality or water district can provide water to the property, and in most cases, no more than one exempt well permit will be issued for a single lot. The State Engineer's Office cannot guarantee the issuance of well permits but rather must evaluate each well permit application received.
When considering a property with an existing house, understand the house's water source. If the source is a well, make sure that the well has a valid well permit by calling the Division of Water Resources. If the well does not have a valid permit, the seller or buyer should work with Water Resources staff to learn how or if the well can be permitted.
If the well does have a valid permit, be sure you completely understand the permit and limits on amount and uses. Once the property is purchased, the new owner must file a change of ownership form with Water Resources.
Finally, before purchasing the property, the buyer may ask to have the well tested for both quality and quantity of the water. If the well produces a small amount of water, often the water system will include a storage tank or cistern.
For more information, visit http://water.state.co.us/DWRIPub/Documents/wellpermitguide.pdf.
Erin Light is the division engineer for Water Division 6 (State of Colorado).