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"Water Law 102"

Colorado Water Law Overview & Augmentation Case Study

Taught by Attorney Aaron Clay

Accredited for 4 Colorado Continuing Legal Education Credits

Colorado Mesa University

November 4, 2014 1pm - 4pm

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Course Description

This course is intended to be an extension of Aaron Clay's "Water Law in a Nutshell" class. We will explore the concepts of Prior Appropriation, Water Administration, and Water Rights changes, all by solving a hands-on problem which will require analysis of water priorities and development of a Plan for Augmentation. A short review of basic Colorado Water Law will be done, the problem will the introduced, and the class will then work in small groups to identify the potential solutions and the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. The class should have a better appreciation for the fine points of Colorado Water Law, especially as it affects Plans for Augmentation.


Introduction of Problem - 30 min.

  • Need for new water source for energy development
  • Option 1: Gunnison River diversion
  • Option 2: Colorado River diversion

Assignment of work teams - 5 min.

  • 4-5 members in a group to discuss and solve problem
  • Random or structured

Explanation of Applicable Legal Principles - 55 min.

  • Prior Appropriation Doctrine
  • Change of water right
  • Plan for Augmentation

Work Teams meet and discuss - 60 min.

Presentation and defense of solutions - 30 min.

Instructor Biography

Aaron was raised in Hotchkiss, Colo. He graduated from the University of Colorado in 1975 (Boettcher Scholar, BA in Physics/Education) and the University of Colorado School of Law in 1979 (Order of the Coif.) He has practiced law in Delta since 1980. His practice is a general practice, with emphasis on real estate, water, business planning, and estate planning. He was the Water Referee for Colorado Water Court, Division 4 (Gunnison, Uncompahgre, and San Miguel River Basins) from 1982 to 2008.

Among his clients are Tri-County Water Conservancy District, Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District, North Fork Water Conservancy District, Grand Mesa Water Users Association, and numerous other ditch companies and water users.